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Anni Albers 



By Nicholas Fox Weber and 
Pandora Tabatabai Asbaghi 

With contributions by Kelly Feeney, 
Jean-Paul Leclercq, and Virginia Gardner Troy 



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Anni Albers (1899-1994) is considered the 
foremost textile designer of our century. Albers, 
one of the central figures of the Weaving 
Workshop at the Bauhaus, had an enormous 
effect worldwide on the design of yard materials 
and on the creation of singular weavings and 
wall hangings. This catalogue, accompanying 
a centennial retrospective of her work, brings to 
light a wide selection of her weavings, drapery 
materials, and wall coverings as well as the 
preparatory studies and graphic works that ^_ 
accompanied them. In addition to full-color 
reproductions of Albers's most important works, 
it also includes documentation of scores of 
her highly influential textile designs. Scholars 
Virginia Gardner Troy and Jean-Paul Leclerq 
explore the significance of her work in the 
context of the history of Western and pre- 
Columbian textile design; Kelly Feeney discusses 
her important commission of ark panels for 
Temple Emanu-El in Dallas; and Albers scholar 
Nicholas Fox Weber provides an insightful 
memoir of the artist's exploration late in life of 
the graphic arts. A comprehensive illustrated 
chronology details Anni Albers's fascinating life 
and career in Germany and in America, both 
as an independent artist and as the wife of the 
famed painter and instructor Josef Albers. 



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Anni Albers 



Anni Albers 



Nicholas Fox Weber and Pandora Tabatabai Asbaghi 



GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM 



Published on the occasion of 
the exhibition Anni Albers, 
organized by Nicholas Fox Weber 
and Pandora Tabatabai Asbaghi 



Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 

March 24-May 24, 1999 
Josef Albers Museum, Bottrop, 

June I2-August 29, 1999 
Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, 

September 20-December 31, 1999 
The Jewish Museum, New York, 

February 27-June 4, 2000 



Front cover 

Drapery material, ca. 1944. Commissioned 
by Philip Johnson for Rockefeller guest 
house, New York. Plastic, copper toil, and 
cotton, 99 X 90.5 cm (39 x 35 Vs inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New 
York, Gift of Anni Albers 1970. 75.10a. 

Back cover 

Anni Albers at Black Mountain College, 
near Asheville, North Carolina, 1947, 
photographed by Nancy Newhall. 



Frontispiece 

Josef Albers, Pazcuaro, date unknown. 
Collage of twenty contact prints, 
mounted on cardboard, 25.4 x 20.3 cm 
(10 X 8 inches). The Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation, Bethany JAF:PH-553. 



© 1999 The Solomon R. Guggenheim 
Foundation, New York. All rights reserved 

All works by Anni Albers and Joset Albers 
© 1999 The Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation, Bethany, Connecticut. Used 
by permission. All rights reserved. 

ISBN 0-89207-218-0 (softcover) 
ISBN 0-8109-6923-8 (hardcover) 

Guggenheim Museum Publications 

1071 Fifth Avenue 

New York, NewYork 10128 

Hardcover edition distributed by 

Harry N. Abrams 

100 Fifth Avenue 

New York, New York looii 

Design: Nathan Garland 
Production: Esther Yun 
Editor: Jennifer Knox- White 



The operations and programs of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection are supported by: 
INTRAPRES^ COLLEZIONE GUGGENHEIM 



Aermec 

Arclinea 

Automotive Products Italia 

Banca Antoniana Popolare Veneta 

Barbero 1891 

Bisazza 

DEW AG 

Gretag Imaging Group 

Gruppo 3M Italia 

Gruppo Imation Italia 



iGuzzini Illuminazione 

Istituto Poligraficoe Zecca dello Stato 

Leo Burnett 

Lubiam I9n 

Luciano Marcato 

Rex Built-in 

Safilo Group 

Swatch 

Wella 

Zucchi-Ba.ssetti Group 



Management by Bondardo C'omunicazione 

The trustees of the Solomon R. Ciuggenhcim Foundation gratefully 
acknowledge the Regione Veneto for the annual subsidy that assures the effective 
operation o( the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. 



Offi 



cial carrie 



r/llitalia 



9 Introduction 

Nicholas Fox Weber 



28 Thread as Text: 

The Woven Work of Anni Albcrs 
Virginia Gardner Iroy 



64 On the Structure 
of the Weavings 
Jea)i-Pattl Leclercq 



94 Constructing Textiles 
Anni Albers 



118 Anni Albers: 

Devotion to Material 

Kelly Feeney 



124 The Last Bauhausler 
Nicholas Fox Weber 



152 Anni Albers 1899-1994 

Pandora I'abatahai Asbaghi 



Contents 



Preface 



Thomas Krens 

Director, 

The Solomon R. Guggenheim 

Foundation 



The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is proud to present the first 
retrospective of the art of Anni Albers to be shown in Europe, and to do 
so in the centenary year of her birth. Her Httle-known story and her art, 
which is often overshadowed by that of her husband, Josef belong firmly 
in the fabric of twentieth-century Modernism, like a thread in one of her 
weavings. It is a remarkably pure but lively and humane story, touched 
by some of the dramatic events that took place in Germany between the 
two world wars and her emigration to a strange land, the United States. 

This exhibition has been made possible above all by the Josef and 
Anni Albers Foundation and by its indefatigable director, Nicholas Fox 
Weber, who, with Pandora Tabatabai Asbaghi, organized this exhibition. 
While thanking them personally for their leadership of the project, I also 
want to acknowledge how full a partnership with the Albers Foundation 
this exhibition has been. The Albers Foundation has generously made 
loans from its collections and has contributed the time and unmatchable 
expertise of its excellent staff This is not the first time that the 
Guggenheim Foundation has had the pleasure of working with the Albers 
Foundation. Our previous collaborations include two highly successful and 
distinguished exhibitions of the work of Josef Albers, a full retrospective, 
which originated in 1988 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 
New York, as well as a show devoted to his works in glass, which was 
shown at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice in 1994 and at the 
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1995. Furthermore, we 
owe the presence of important paintings and photographs by Josef Albers 
in the Guggenheim's collections to the extraordinary generosity of the 
Albers Foundation. 

My particular gratitude goes to two New York institutions, 
the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, both 
of which have made many important loans; the cooperation of their 
professional staffs was vital to the success of this presentation. To the many 
other lenders to the exhibition, who are listed individually elsewhere in 
this catalogue, I wish to express my most sincere thanks. 

After it closes in Venice, the exhibition will travel to the Josef 
Albers Museum in Bottrop, Germany, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in 
Paris, and the Jewish Museum in New York. It is an honor for the 
Guggenheim Foundation to be working with these museums, and in 
particular with Ulrich Schumacher, Marie-Claude Beaud, and Norman 
Kleeblatt and his colleague Susan Chevlowe at those institutions. 

Exhibitions presented at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection are 
inconceivable without all those who generously provide annual funds 
for its activities, as is gratefully noted elsewhere. For many years, Alitalia 
has been the Peggy Guggenheim Collection's official airline; the Regione 
Veneto has provided an annual subsidy since 1981; the loyal and enthusiastic 
Advisory Board of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, presently led by 
Luigi Moscheri, has been a key part of the collection's success in the 
eighteen years since it joined the Guggenheim Foundation; and finally, 
the Intrapress Collezione Guggenheim, numbering twenty distinguished 
European corporations, earmark their annual support specifically to the 
cultural programs of the collection. Thank you to them all. 



How appropriate that this major retrospective exhibition, the most complete 
show ever of Anni Albers's art, which has been organized in honor oi the 
hundredth anniversary of the artist's birth, should have been initiated by 
the Peggy Guggenheim C'ollcction. Like Anni Albers, Peggy Ciuggenheim 
was a perpetual explorer and adventurer, someone who broke down barriers 
and left behind the potential ease of one sort of existence for the supreme 
pleasures, as well as the never-ending challenges, of a life devoted to art. 
It is thanks to the extraordinary steward of Peggy's legacy, the engaged and 
engaging Philip Rylands, Deputy Director of the Pegg\' Guggenheim 
GoUection, that this show has been made possible and that it opens in Venice. 
We feel profound gratitude to him tor his vision and his perpetual clarity 
of thought. At the Pegg\' Guggenheim, we are also gratefiil to Renata Rossani, 
Chiara Barbieri, Beate Earner, Glaudia Rech, and Sandra Divari, who have 
undertaken a range of responsibilities with tremendous grace and energy. 

The subsequent venues are equally fitting. The Josef Albers Museum 
in Bottrop, Germany, is both the great showcase for the art of Anni's 
husband and partner of fifty years and a kunsthalle for the finest abstract an 
of the century, under the expert guidance of its director, the splendid and 
patient Ulrich Schumacher. Then on to the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in 
Paris, time and again the place where the distinction of craft and art has 
been rendered nil and where originalit)' and brilliance have been brought to 
the fore. It is because of its director, the exuberant, perceptive, and tenacious 
Marie-Glaude Beaud — a woman one is certain Anni, however particular 
in her personal preferences, would have loved — that this exhibition fills that 
splendid place, with its success assured by Anne de Rougement, Director 
of Development; Dominique Pallut, Exhibitions Department Manager; and 
Jean-Paul Leclercq, conservateur en chef du patrimoine charge des collec- 
tions anterieures au XlXe siecle. And finally the Jewish Museum in New 
York, once the home of Edward M. M. Warburg, the patron who, quietly 
and in the background, paid the Alberses' steamship fare to the United 
States in the harrowing period after the Gestapo padlocked the doors of the 
Bauhaus. Thirt)' years later, it was the farsighted institution that, thanks to 
the patronage of Vera List, awarded Anni her most significant commission, 
for the elegiac and powerful Six Prayers. Norman Kleeblatt, Susan and 
Elihu Rose Curator of Eine Arts, and Susan Chevlowe, Associate Curator of 
Fine Arts, are the open-minded and spirited individuals whom we have 
to thank for 1109 Fifth Avenue again being Anni's sanctuary in America. 

At each of those institutions the support staff has tackled this project 
with flair and devotion that has made every stage of the work a pleasure. 
Equal thanks go to those at the Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan 
Museum of Art in New York, without whom this project would not 
have been possible. At the Museum of Modern Art, one must thank, in 
the Department of Architecture and Design, Matilda McQuaid, Associate 
Curator; Luisa Lorch, Cataloguer; and Lynda Zycherman, Associate 
Conser\'ator; at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jane Adlin, Curatorial 
Assistant, Department of Twentieth Centur\- Decorative Arts; and at 
the Antonio Ratti Textile Center of the Metropolitan Museum, Nobuko 
Kajitani, Conservator in Charge, and F^lena Phipps, Conservator 

Gae Aulenti — so alert to Anni's vision; like Anni, so focused on 
design that is "anonymous and timeless " rather than any attempt to push 
herself forward; so thorough and quietly assured — is responsible not only for 
the appearance of this show, but for many of its underlving precepts. Gae's 
office staff has been wonderful. In particular, we owe profuse thanks to the 
architect Massimiliano Caruso, who has managed the inordinately complex 
details of textile presentation with infinite patience and diligence, and to the 
architect Francesca Eenaroli, for her continuous strength and professionalism. 



Acknowledgments 

Nicholas Fox Weber 
Executive Director, 
The Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation 



Pandora Tabatabai Asbaghi, co-curator of this exhibition, sculpted 
the breadth and depth of its contents, and expanded its concept to include 
Anni's persona along with her art. Pandora has done so with flair and insight, 
with the "open eyes" so cherished by both Josef and Anni, and with rare 
energy and imagination. In compiling the chronology, Tirso Eduard Wiegel 
provided Pandora with much-appreciated administrative assistance. 

Nathan Garland, the designer of this book, has seen, with spectacular 
conscientiousness and attentiveness, to the creation of a publication that 
functions, we hope, not only as an exhibition catalogue but as the first volume 
to approach Anni Albers in adequate range. He was ably assisted by Gregg 
Chase and Karin Krochmal. Katharine Weber, as editor of some of the text, 
has tackled difficult tasks with acuity and great finesse. 

Great thanks also go to Anthony Calnek, Director of Publications at 
the Guggenheim, for his superb guidance and constant patience and good 
humor in overseeing the many stages of assembling this publication in all its 
complexity. I am also gratefiil to Elizabeth Levy, Managing Editor/Manager of 
Foreign Editions; Jennifer Knox- White; Esther Yun, Assistant Production 
Manager; and Liza Donatelli, Administrative and Editorial Assistant. 

Brenda Danilowitz, chief curator of the Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation, has, more than anyone else, made this undertaking a reality. Her 
attention to detail has been nothing short of staggering, her thoroughness 
and alertness, even under circumstances of intense pressure, amazing. It is 
impossible to enumerate the tasks she accomplished with fortitude and care, 
quite simply, this show would not have been possible without her. 

Others on the staff of the Albers Foundation have also played essen- 
tial roles. Jackie Ivy, our curatorial associate, has helped in myriad ways, and 
specifically in the imaginative and effective presentation of Anni's personal 
effects. Craig Taylor, curatorial assistant, and Terry Tabaka, building superin- 
tendent, have been inordinately helpful in seeing to vital details pertaining to 
the care of the objects. Phyllis Fitzgerald, our administrative assistant, has, 
with her professionalism, as well as the history of her long friendship with 
Anni, been an invaluable support. Camilla Lyons, an intern, did considerable 
research for the catalogue chronology. 

Kelly Feeney, for many years a curator at the foundation, was 
responsible not only for a re-organization of our Anni Albers holdings and 
documentation, but also for our success in re-locating, and re-acquiring 
missing or lost weavings; having known and admired Anni over a long period 
of time, she did this, and much else, with intense personal devotion and 
insight. Sarah Lowengard, the textile conservator, has cared for the objects 
themselves with consummate professionalism and skill and provided essential 
advice with utmost wisdom and generosity. 

Bobbie Dreier, the dearest of friends to both Anni and Josef Albers 
from the moment of their arrival in America in November of 1933, has 
done more for this show than she can imagine. She has unearthed some of 
Anni's most thrilling hardware jewelry as well as other of the artist's splendid 
handmade objects, provided reminiscences both telling and amusing, and, 
as always, brought true joy to all of us engaged in Anni's work and life. 

I am also grateful in countless ways to my fellow directors of the 
Albers Foundation, John Eastman and Charles Kingsley, for their unflagging 
support and generosity. And Anni's brother, Hans Farman, has, as always, 
been an angel who has provided what no one else could have supplied. 

As Anni declared in her favorite quotation from Kandinsky, there 
is always an "and." On behalf of one of the true pioneers of the twentieth 
century, of a woman whose integrity was on a par with her talent, and of 
a wonderful friend, 1 repeat the words Anni Albers loved to utter more than 
any others, be it at ceremonial occasions or everyday moments: thank you. 



Why Anni Albers? 

To begin with, she transformed textiles as an art form. Anni elevated the 
status of woven threads and put the mediimi on equal footing with oil 
on canvas and watereolor on paper. And so Buckminster Fuller declared, 
"Anni Albers, more than any other weaver, has succeeded in exciting 
mass realization of the complex structure of fabrics. She has brought the 
artist's intuitive sculpturing faculties and the agelong weaver's arts into 
historical successful marriage."' 

She took up weaving reluctantly. Anni had wanted to be a painter, 
a full-Hedged artist, just like the men who attended the Bauhaus around 
her, but circumstances and certain unalterable realities of her milieu got 
in the way. Yet even though she felt that she had been forced into textiles, 
she did her utmost to achieve with the medium what her heroes like 
Paul Klee and \'asil\' Kandinsk\' had accomplished in paint. .A pioneer 
of abstract art when it was still a radical concept, in the 1910s, she made 
wall hangings of incomparable power and Hair and visual excitement. 
If weavers of previous generations had replicated the flower patterns and 
decorative motifs that were prescribed for the form, Anni used her yarns 
to create "visual resting places" (a term she borrowed from one of her 
heroes, Wilhelm Worringer), which are as calming and diverting as they 
are infinitely rich and complex. Anni's textile compositions put in visual 
form aspects of the natural world and of philosophical thought that 
reflected her endlessly probing, inventive mind. 

The direct effects and echoes of her daring search ha\e been 
fiir-reaching. Abstract wall hangings have come to flourish as an art form. 
It has become completely acceptable for thread to be its own voice, 
to have no obligation to represent anything other than itself. And in her 
own, extremely small body of work, she made individual masterpieces — 
weavings that inspire meditation as well as a quick fix, that profoundly 
enrich the lives of their viewers. 

And what a brave woman Anni was! She left the comforts of her 
Itixurious bourgeois upbringing to join those daring souls who wanted 
to do the unprecedented at the Bauhaus. She married a man from the 
other side of the tracks — in part because they shared a consuming faith 
in art. Their joint pursuit of technical and aesthetic heights counted more 
to them than anything else in life; the visual came both to embody and 
to represent to them the highest moral and human standards. The making 
of art was the means and the goal that enabled this wonderful couple 
not just to survive, but also to thrive, in spite of the sometimes desperate 
vicissitudes of their existence, in which Nazism, illness, and financial 
duress were a realit)'. Their accomplishments triumphed. 

Anni's marriage to Josef Albers is, of course, part of the fascination 
that she holds for us. Neither of them bought into any of the cliches that 
others might have tried to promulgate on the subject. Sometimes Anni 
would assume the role of downtrodden wife, but then she would disparage 
the progress potentially offered by feminism. On the issue of who influenced 
whom, there is no single answer — except that both were believers in the 
same cause. Integrity, hard work, the serenity and strength afh)rded bv art 
at its best, the deliberate avoidance of those sides of the art world that might 
distract them from their ongoing and diligent search, the mutual loathing 
of trendiness and corrupt values: this was what the Alberses cared for. 

Not only did Anni create individual objects that hold up against 
some of the finest abstract paintings of the century, but she made functional 
materials of incomparable subtlet\ and richness as well as practical 



Introduction 



Nicholas Fox Weber 




I. Anni Albers, Dessau, ca. 1929, 
photographed by Umbo. 



2. Josef and Anni Albers, Oberstdort, 
Germany, 1927-28. 




3. Anni and Josef AJbers, 1942, 
photographed by Ted Dreier. 




10 



effectiveness. A wall covering she made tor an auditorium — the piece that 
earned her a Bauhaus diploma — was sound-absorbing and light-reHecting 
while unimaginably modern and soothing to look at. The air and light 
that Howed through a space divider she designed were as essential to the 
piece as its wooden strips, dowel, and thread. .Another wall covering 
concealed nail holes. And in all of this the machine and handweaving were 
extolled equally; the synthetic was revered alongside the natural. Anni's 
approach was forever original, ba.sed more on her own olxservations 
and understanding than on .iinthing in the air, .iiul she was wondertullv 
able to surprise us. 

Anni's influence was vast. She directly affected her students at 
two of the greatest art institutions of the twentieth century — the Bauhaus 
in Weimar and Des.sau, and Black Mountain College near Asheville, 
North C^arolina — and, through her work and writing and the dissemination 
of her thoughts worldwide, she inspired and guided a large number of 
artists in directions that have now become part of the mainstream. 

And quite late in life she became a printmaker who, in collaboration 
with some of the leading technicians of the medium, blended screenprint 
with photo-offset, used the processes of etching, shifted and overprinted 
plates, and drenched lithographic stones in acid, in such startling and 
original ways that time and again she achieved the unprecedented, while 
making art that is as fascinating and engaging as it was brave. 

No wonder she so often quoted Kandinsky's, "There is always an 
and." That verity certainly applied to her. 

And what a writer and aesthetic philosopher she was. Her book 
On D«/^//>/^^ invariably has readers exclaiming on its strength and eloquence. 
Her cultured and educated voice, nourished as it was by the wisdom and 
temperance of the Enlightenment and Goethe, was infused with a Zen-like 
reticence and modesty. "The good designer is the anonymous designer, 
so I believe, the one who does not stand in the way of the material; who 
sends his products on their way to a useful life without an ambitious 
appearance. A useful object should perform its duty without much ado."' 
(What would she have made of today's obsession with designers' logos 
and the conspicuous display of designers' names?) Her faith in art, and the 
encapsulation of its possibilities, was nothing short of marvelous. 



1. Quoted on back j.ickci ot Amii Albcrs, 
On Designing (Middlctown, C^onn.: 
Wesleyan University Press, 1959). 

2. "Design: Anonymous .uid I inuless" 
(1946), in ibid., pp. b-~. 

3. "Art — A Constant" (1939), in ibid., 
pp. 47-48- 



The reality of nature will appear to us as never ending. As we 
examine it, it is endless. It obeys laws never totally lucid to our 
understanding. 

The reality of art is concluded in itself. It sets up its own laws 
as completion of vision. 

Art is constant and it is complete.' 

Who else has articulated such ideas as succinctly or engagingly? 



II 



4- Wall hanging, 1924. 
Cotton and silk, 169.6 x 100.3 cm 
{66% X 39X inches). 
The Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation, Bethany. 







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5- VC'all hant;ing, 1925. 

Wool and silk, 236 x 96 cm 

(92 X X 37 'X<. inches). 

Die Neue Sammlung St.uuliches 

Museum tiir angewandtc Kunst, 

Munich ^64/26. 



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6. Wall hanging, 1925. 

Silk, cotton, and acetate, 

145 X 92 cm (57 X X 36 -Ab inches). 

Die Neue Sammlung Staatliches 

Museum fiir angewandte Kunst, 

Munich 363/26. 




7. Wall hanging, 1926. Silk, 
182.9 X 122 cm (72 X 48 inches). 
The Busch-Reisinger Museum, 
Harvard University Art Museums, 
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 
Association Fund BR 48.132. 



14 




15 




8. Preliminary design for a wall 

hanging, 1926. Gouache and pencil 

on paper, 34.9 x 29.5 cm 

(13 K X II /« inches). The Museum 

of Modern Art, New York, 

Gift of the designer 397.51. 



16 




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ann^ia* alters 3. 26. 
entvmrf fiir jacriuard 
1. 



9. Preliminary design tor a wall 

hanging, 1926. Gouache and pencil 

on paper, 25.4 x 20.3 cm 

(10 X 8 inches). The Museum of 

Modern Art, New York, 

Gift of the designer 398.51. 



17 



lo. Design for a jacquard weaving, 
1926. Watercolor and gouache 
on paper, 34.3 x 28.6 cm 
(13 X X iiK inches). 
The Busch-Reisinger Museum, 
Harvard University Art Museums, 
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 
Gift of Anni Albers 48.46. 




Annl Albere 113.1926 
design for Jaquard ireaTlng 




II. Drapery material, 1927. 
Designed for the Theater Cafe Altes, 
Dessau. Spun silk, 7 x 105.4 cm 
(2X X 4i/< inches). The Museum 
of Modern Art, New York, 
Gift of the designer 451.51. 



18 




12. Tablecloth material, 1930. 
Mercerized cotton, 59.3 x 72.4 cm 
(23 Xx zS'A inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Purchase Fund 561.53. 



19 




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13. Design tor a wall hanging, 1925. 

Gouache on paper, 

31.7 X 19.2 cm (12X X 7%(, inches). 

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 

Gift of the designer 395.51. 



20 





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14. Design for a jute rug, 1927. 
Watercolor and india ink on paper, 
34.6 X 26.3 cm (13 /^ X 10 X<. inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art. New York, 
Gift of the designer 403.51. 



21 





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15. Design for a rug for a child's 
room, 1928. Gouache on paper, 
34.1 X 26.5 cm (13 '/(, X 10 %. inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of the designer 
405.51. 



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i6. Design for a bedspread, 1928. 
Watercolor and pencil on paper, 
32.5 X 25.9 cm (12% X 10X6 inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of the designer 
406.51. 



23 



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17. Design for drapery material, 1927. 

Designed for the Theater Cafe Altes, 

Dessau. Watercolor on paper, 

22.9 X 35.2 cm (9 X I yi inches). 

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 

Gift of the designer 404.51. 



24 




i8. Design tor a theater curtain, 

1928. Gouache on paper, 

II. 4 X 35.2 cm (4X X i^'A inches). 

The Museum of Modern Art, 

New York, Gift of the designer 

407.51. 



25 




19- Design for a tablecloth, 1930. 

Watercolor and gouache 

on square-ruled paper, 

26 X 24.1 cm (10 X X 9/. inches). 

The Museum of Modern Art, 

New York, Gift of the designer 

393-5I- 



26 





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20. Design for a tablecloth, 1930. 

Gouache on paper, 

30.2 X 23.8 cm (11 X X 9 X inches). 

The Museum of Modern Art, 

New York, Gift of the designer 

408.51. 



27 



Thread as Text: 

The Woven Work of Anni Albers 



Virginia Gardner Troy Anni Albers was acutely aware of the semantic function of thread and 

textiles in the context of art and design. Throughout her prolific 
and lengthy weaving career she explored the notion of thread as text to a 
degree that remains unsurpassed by any other textile artist this century. 
She achieved this position by synthesizing what she had learned from two 
primary sources: Andean textiles and the art and teaching of Paul Klee.' 
Albers advanced Andean textiles as "the most outstanding examples of 
textile art, "' calling the weavers of ancient Peru her "great teachers"' and 
using their extraordinary textiles as her primary textbook in her quest to 
create art that could be "turn[ed] to again and again and that might 
possibly last for centuries as some ancient Peruvian things have. "^ Of Klee, 
she stated, "I come always back to Klee as my great hero," because 
"his art is lasting, and that is what interests me: the lasting things, and not 
[the] quick passing things."' It is significant that Albers linked her great 
teachers, the Andean weavers, to her hero, Klee, by way of her concept 
of artistic permanence. 

Klee's art and Andean weavings were also connected in Albers's 
mind by her interest in artistic language. Through her continuous 
investigation of thread as a carrier of meaning, not simply as a utilitarian 
product, she was able to create art that functions as a visual language, 
as she believed her ancient Andean predecessors had done." She also 
embedded her work with poetic content by exploring in thread the notion 
of the pictograph (a sign or mark that refers to an external subject), the 
calligraph (a beautiful mark that stands for a letter or word), and the 
ideograph (a sign that indicates an idea, not necessarily through pictorial 
representation). These semantic and artistic elements were forms of 
visual signs that Klee had examined in his art. 

Albers's first weavings to result from her interest in visual sign 
languages were her large, multi-weave wall hangings from the Dessau 
Bauhaus period, such as an untitled hanging from 1926 (fig. 4), 
Black-White-Red {ic)x6, fig. 21), and Black-White-Gray (i^iy, fig. 22)." By 
this time she had become an important force in leading the Bauhaus's 
weaving workshop toward a systematic and orderly approach to textile 
design and production that emphasized the integral relationship between 
construction and pattern. In this way textiles could be produced in series, 
and the substitution of one fiber for another, or one weave construction 
for another, could change the entire nature of the finished textile. At the 
same time Albers promoted the role of handweaving as one of the first steps 
of the production process." The use of a system implies the availability of a 
code to decipher it; in Albers's case the textile itself served as the code, or 
prototype, lor production. Fhe approach to textile design and production 
that she developed at the Bauhaus was one of Albers's great achievements. 



28 




21. Black-White-Red, 1964 
reconstruction of a 1926 original. 
Cotton and silk, 175 x 118 cm 
(68 Xx 46 X. inches). 

Bauh.uis-ArLhi\', Berlin. 



. 11 M " ■■ ■■ 

rj JET! 



22. Black-White-Gray, 1964 
reconstruction of a 1927 original 
Cotton and silk, 147 x 118 cm 
(57 'X X 46 "/(. inches). 
Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin. 



29 






»J" Affuis- 





^ 



flH.li i f/M. ftfi (fcf J*^<*'^ 



^ 



t 



*>» /fc; J^a (fa- neaCj 



23. Paul KJee, Page from the 
"Padagogischen Nachlass," ca. 1923. 
Kunstmuseum Bern, Paul Klee Stiftung. 




24. Tocapu tunic, Island of Titicaca, found 
in a stone chest near Moro-Kato. American 
Museum of Natural History, New York, 
Part of the Garces Collection, Purchased by 
A. F. Bandelier in 1896 32601. 



for it provided an alternative to the narrative and figural European tapestry 
tradition— in which a textile was produced by weavers based on cartoons 
often created by others — and it allowed the modern weaver to compose 
directly on the loom.' Through her study of Andean textiles, Albers 
was able to understand how the direct communication between use and 
design, between process and product, was accomplished in ancient 
times on simple hand looms by a sophisticated culture that did not use 
conventional Western writing systems, but instead employed symbols 
to communicate ideas.'" 

In designing her wall hangings, Albers employed a system based 
on a language of geometric, modular forms, which she arranged according 
to the principles of rotation, color swapping, repetition, multiplication, 
and division. These principles, which Klee taught in his theoretical classes 
at the Bauhaus, had an integral relationship to the underlying structure 
of weaving. The year 1927 was an important one for Albers, because she 
was among those who attended a course taught by Klee specifically for 
weaving-workshop students." Certainly she had had access to his work 
before this time through his published pedagogical notebooks and exhibi- 
tions of his work." "We were so full of admiration for Klee," she once 
stated," and later added, "He was my god at the time."'^ What she 
primarily absorbed from Klee during his course were his lessons dealing 
with structural composition, particularly in relation to the grid. As Klee 
explained it, the grid is a structure generated both by the repetition of 
units as well as by the under- and overlapping of bands. Pages from his 
pedagogical notebooks show that weaving featured in his thoughts on the 
grid. Indeed, for a unit on structural composition he diagrammed the 
warp and weft construction of weaving as well as weaving in cross section 
in order to show the inherent checkerboard pattern of the medium (fig. 23).'* 

"I think I owe most of my insight into problems of form to Klee," 
Albers later stated, pointing to Klee's importance as a source for her early 
investigations into the language of nonobjective form and its significance 
within the idiom of weaving."' The geometric patterns that she created 
within a grid format are essentially self-referential in that they are inherent 
to the works' structure; at the same time they suggest both the image and 
the idea of text. The viewer scans the images for clues to a code, and by 
doing so becomes engaged in a perceptual activity not unlike that of reading. 

Albers's exploration of textiles as text through the arrangement 
of sign modules was reinforced during this period by the Andean textiles 
she saw in various museums.'' She admired the dazzling and complex color 
and shape patterning of Inca, Wari, and Tiawanaku tunics, which have a 
strong similarity to the type of patterning she was exploring at the Bauhaus. 
She also studied Andean open-weave and multi-weave textiles. Albers 
responded primarily to the concept and use of ideographic signs and 
structures in these textiles rather than to specific iconography, even though 
she was aware that discrete information about the Andean world was 
embedded within their forms and structures. She was particularly interested 
in the Inca tunics that incorporated a geometric motif patterning known 
as tocapu in the Quechua language. She would have seen outstanding 
examples of such tunics in the Museum fiir Vdlkerkunde in Berlin and 
Munich,'* as well as in two books: Walter Lehmanns Kunstgeschichte 
des Alten Peru (1923, fig. 24) and Raoul d'Harcourt's Les Tissus Indiens du 
Vieux Perou (1924)."' These technically extraordinary, handmade textiles, 
with their complex geometric and color arrangements, served as ideal 
formal and technical models for Albers's exploration of textiles as art. 

Albers immigrated to the United States with her husband, Josef, 



30 



in 19?^ From that year until 1949 she taught at Black Mountain College, 
near Asheville, North Carolina. In 1935 the couple made the first of more 
than fourteen trips to Mexico and South America.'" From the start she 
combed the markets in Mexico lor "old things," including Andean textiles 
for her personal textile collection. During these trips she also assembled a 
substantial collection of textiles for Black Mountain College, and acquired 
numerous items tor her and lose! s collection of Mesoamerican and 
Andean art, which eventually included more than one thousand ceramic, 
stone, jade, and textile pieces.' 

Fhe dramatic changes that occurred in Alberss woven work im- 
mediately after her first visit to Mexico reflect her deepening understanding 
of ancient American art. She was also beginning to fully understand the 
impact of Klee's work and teaching now that she was able to look back 
upon her Bauhaus years and filter her memories of them. The first two wall 
hangings she made in the United States, Ancient Writing and Monte Alban 
(both 1936, figs. 37 and 38), which are possibly companion pieces, were 
decisively different from her Bauhaus work. Both pieces incorporate an 
element of Klee's art that she assimilated in her own work only after her 
Bauhaus period: the exploration of the personal and associational aspects 
of subject matter, particularly in the context of semantics. 

With Monte Alban Albers used for the first time a technique 
that she practiced throughout her subsequent weaving career: the supple- 
mentary, or floating, weft, in which an extra weft thread is threaded, or 
"floated," above the woven surface. Albers would have seen this common 
Andean technique — which is still widely used in modern Latin America — 
in Germany and in publications; indeed, she owned numerous examples 
of it.' In Mo>ite AlbcDi Albers used this technique to "draw" lines on 
the surface of the woven structure to refer to the ascending and descending 
steps, the Bat plazas, and the underground chambers of the ancient site 
after which the work is named. "We were aware of layer upon layer of 
former civilization under the ground," she wrote of her visit to the site." 
The supplementary-weft technique allowed her to devote attention to the 
surface of the weaving. While the structure of the overall textile continued 
to be vitally important, her focus on the inscription was a significant 
departure from her Bauhaus work. This change reveals her new under- 
standing of both Andean art and Klee's vision. She later said, "I find that 
[Klee] probably had . . . influence on my work and my thinking by just 
looking at what he did with a line or a dot or a brush stroke, and I tried in 
a way to find my way in my own material and my own craft discipline."''' 

In Ancient Writing s\\t similarly used a title and abstract visual 
forms to imply content. She evoked the idea of visual language by grouping 
together differently textured and patterned squares like words or glyphs, 
locking this "text" into an underlying grid. The "text," which is set within 
margins, appears to jump forward to be "read " like words on a page." Like 
Klee, Albers sometimes used pictographic, calligraphic, and ideographic 
signs simultaneously in her work in order to address concerns related to 
visual language and mark-making, a practice that occupied Albers through- 
out her career in the United States and that she continually framed within 
the context of Andean textiles. She was amazed that Andean culture seems 
to have had no written language, and she concluded that the textile medi- 
um itself "was their language . . . their way of speaking about the world."'' 

Monte Alban and Ancioit U'';7//;/i^ signaled the beginning of 
Alberss long exploration of what she called her "pictorial weaving." 1 his 
term is somewhat contradictory in that she never wove recognizable pictures 
in the traditional European manner; "abstract pictorial weaving" (as 




25- Quipu, Inca, from the coastal valley 
of Chancay, Peru. American Museum of 
Natural History, New York 325190. 



opposed to "figurative pictorial weaving") would be a more accurate term. 
Albers thought of the floating-weft technique as one method by which 
to create a unique pictorial image in thread as she worked toward "the 
direction of art."'" She believed that the creation of art revolved around 
the process of articulation: "To let threads be articulate again," she wrote, 
"is the raison d'etre of my pictorial weavings.""** 

With the augmentation of the floating-weft thread, which 
essentially created unique objects of her weavings, Albers could effectively 
change her work Irom prototype to art. For her pictorial weaving 
Black-White-Gold I {i<)')0, fig. 42), she added calligraphic floating-weft 
threads upon the central portion of the woven field. She also introduced 
the supplementary knotted weft, a technique derived from a Peruvian 
source, most likely the elaborate Andean recording device called a 
quipu, a knotted thread instrument that held codified data (see fig. 25)."' 
Discussing the Andeans' use of quipus, Albers stated, 

[Andean weavers] developed a very tricky mathematics. . . . These 
instruments were, again, not written. They didn't have ivriting, 
as I told you. But what they did [have] was threads . . . called 
quipus, this instrument. And the dijferent things that they had to 
deliver were designated on each thread. The amount ivas indicated 
with different knots and different heights and so on. I knew once, 
at one time, how to do it.'" 
Here was a clear example of thread functioning as text, which Albers 
innovatively translated and applied to her own work. 

Albers's pictorial woven work of the 1950s to the early 1960s was 
dominated by her interest in and use of visual sign languages. She 
believed that textiles, particularly Andean textiles, served as "transmitters 
of meaning." She wrote. 

Along with cave paintings, threads were among the earliest transmitters 
of meaning, hi Peru, ivhere no written language in the generally 
understood sense had developed even by the time of the conquest 
in the sixteenth century, we find — to my mind not in spite of 
this but because of it — one of the highest textile cultures we have 
come to know." 

Albers wove Two (fig. 44) in 1952 with these thoughts in mind. 
On top ol an underlying plain-weave checkerboard ground, Albers wove 
heavy dark fibers using a supplementary technique. Thus the dark shapes 
appear to overlap one another upon the ground, creating a dynamic and 
scriptlike figure-ground relationship. Tivo was originally woven "sideways," 
with the short end in the vertical direction; afterwards Albers turned 
it horizontally, and signed it on the lower right. The practice of working 
in one direction and then turning it to another after completion was 
frequently employed by expert Andean weavers of the Middle Horizon 
(500-900 ad) and Late Horizon (1438-1534 AD)periods." Klee, too, fre- 
quently turned or inverted his work after completion." 

Two is a particularly significant and striking piece because of its 
clear indebtedness to De Stijl. Albers maintained her involvement with the 
formal vocabulary of De Stijl — which she first learned at the Bauhaus — 
for over three decades, viewing it in light of her contact with ancient 
American art. She saw parallels between De Stijl and Andean textiles in 
their use of universal abstract languages and patterns.'^ Albers was aware 
that early De Stijl images were essentially distillations of recognizable 
subject matter — abstractions that resulted in pictographic representations — 
while later images moved toward the ideographic and the nonobjective. She 
would also have noticed that Pict Mondrian's and Theo van Doesburgs 



32 



linear block compositions echo the inherent construction of weaving and 
create figure-ground relationships like that of text on a page.' 

The parallels between the principles of De Stijl and Andean 
textiles are particularly apparent in works in which figure-ground relation- 
ships are ambiguous and abstract pictorial signs merge with ideographic 
ones.'" Albers owned numerous Andean textiles that contain this visual 
ambiguity, such as a C]hancay fragment constructed with two different 
techniques: the top portion is supplementar\-weft brocade, while the lower 
portion is interlocked tapestry (fig. 26). Roth parts involve dynamic 
color and value patterning, as well as bold figure-ground relationships that 
are established through contrast and repetition. In its stepped lines 
and figure-ground reversals, the lower portion is clearly a formal source 
for Two, while the upper portion served as a technical source. 

Two also reveals an indebtedness to Klee's late script pictures with 
their grafifitilike signs, which Albers would have seen at the 1949 KJee 
retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.'" Interestingly, Klee painted 
manv of these late works on burlap, a loosely woven, natural-fiber cloth. 
When burlap is painted, the warp-and-weft structure and texture of the 
cloth is emphasized, as in KJee's Tlora on the Rocks [Flora am FeLeru 1940, 
fig. 27), resulting in a work that appears to be both painting and textile. 
Klee frequently explored the merging of artistic techniques along with the 
merging of signs, and Albers clearly emulated this fluid approach. 

Soon after Albers made Two she wove what may have been a 
companion piece, Pictographic (1953, fig. 28), also a long rectangle woven 
sideways." Blocks of color arranged on a checkerboard ground are "inscribed" 
with forty-one Xs. As in Two, Albers used line and shape in this work 
to refer to the image of a text. While the contrast between light and dark 
is not as pronounced in Pictographic as it is in Two, the varying degrees 
of value and intensit)' between the blocks and the Xs produce subtle figure- 
ground relationships that evoke a passage of text or layers of text. 

The most striking examples of Albers's pictorial weavings from 
the 1950s and 1960s can be divided into two main thematic groups: 
those using imagery derived from ancient American motifs or landscapes, 
such as South of the Border (1958) and Tikal (1958); and those evoking 
linguistic characters and systems through the rectilinear arrangement of 
ideographic signs. Many of the titles of these latter works have direct 
textual references, as in Memo (1958), Open Letter {i%%) , Jotting (1959), 
Haikti (1961), and Code (1962). In light of Albers's focus on inscriptions 
and signs it is interesting to note that .some of the first pieces of ancient 
American art that Albers purchased in Mexico were ceramic and stone 
stamps used to print and block designs (figs. 29-32)."' These stamps 
are similar to the type once used to compose text in printing in that both 
require the creation of a figure-ground relationship in order for the 
image or text to be seen and therefore read. 

The relationship of image/text to ground was one that Albers 
delighted in and explored with increasing intensity during the 1950s. Her 
pictorial weavings of this period reveal a deliberate effort to create a high 
degree of contrast between figure and ground, and to maintain a strict 
rectilinearit)' within patterns and in pattern sequences. In Memo, for 
example, she employed a repertoire of sign characters that are similar to 
an alphabet, and these are arranged along horizontal bars. Although one's 
automatic respon.se is to read this "memo" for information, Albers's 
intention was not simply to simulate a page of text; rather, she sought to 
investigate the nature of ideographic signs and the expression of codified 
visual information through thread. 




26. I'rc-C'olumhi.m textile Ir.igiiK-iu, 
Chancay. 1100-1400 AU. Cotton, 
16.5 X 12.7 cm (6 y* X 5 inches), 
rhe Anni Albers Collection ot 
I're-("olumbian Textiles ot the Joset and 
.•\nni Albers Foundation, Bethany. 




1^ . I'aiil Klee, /•/on; (»i inc kocKi 

(Flora am FeLen), 1940. 

Oil and tempera on burlap, 

90.7 X 70.5 cm (35 'kfiX 27 X inches) 

Kunstmuseum Bern G 1622. 



33 



28. Pictographic, 1953. Cotton, 
45.7 X 101.6 cm (18 X 40 inches). The 
Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society 
purchase, Stanley and Madalyn Rosen 
Fund, Dr. and Mrs. George Kamperman 
Fund, Octavia W. Bates Fund, Emma S. 
Fechimer and William C. Yawkev Fund. 




29. Pre-Columbian stamp, Guerrero, 
1250-1521 AD. Ceramic, 7 cm (^V, inches) 
wide. Peabody Museum of Natural 
History, New Haven, Connecticut, Gift of 
Josef and Anni Albers 251685. 

30. Pre-Columbian stamp, Highland 
Mexico, 1250-1521 AD. Ceramic, 8 cm (3 V« 
inches) wide. Peabody Museum of Natural 
History, New Haven, Connecticut, Gift of 
Josef and Anni Albers 257022. 

31. Pre-Columbian roller stamp, possibly 
Valley of Mexico, 1200-100 BC. Perforated 
sandstone, 8 cm (3 /s inches) long. Peabody 
Museum of Natural History, 

New Haven, Connecticut, Gift of Josef 
and Anni Albers 257679. 

32. Pre-Columbian roller stamp, Tlatilco, 
Valley of Mexico, 1200-900 BC. Ceramic, 
9 cm (3 Vi inches) long. Peabody Museum 
of Natural History, New Haven, 
Connecticut, Gift of Josef and Anni Albers 
257542. 




m 


m^h^^^ 


yi. 


m 


^ 


^^^P 


^5 


^m 


^a>. 


s^^^^^ 


3^1 


^3m 


^ 


^K 


M 


9 


^^ 


Jt^'m^^^ 


^^ 


'^9 


^iu» 




QSS 


M 


^MiMiilMi 


JaMM 




34 



IHtiy of Squares (1955, fig- 4~) also relates signihcantl)- to seman- 
tics, in a way that has generally been overlooked in discussions of Albers's 
work: its element of play. Thirry-six white squares and thirr)'-rhree dark 
brown squares appear in apparcntk random order along rwenty-three 
horizontal bands. As the viewer scans for a code, one system is revealed — 
every row has either three dark squares on a light brown band or three 
light .squares on a medium brown band — but an overall, sequential 
formula does not emerge. In this way, PLiy oj Squares is similar to Alber.s's 
Black-White-Gray (1927), but Play of Squares is smaller and nubbier 
in texture than the earlier work, and its title suggests that it is more poetic 
and improvisational. Ibis nonsensical and apparentl\- random arrange- 
ment of squares within a linear format evokes an ambiguous arrangement 
of words and letters (a play of words) or of musical notes (a play of 
.sounds). Here Albers's connection ro Klee is again apparent: Klee, a 
master of word play, shifting signs, and improvisation, perfected the art of 
visual pimning by skillfully creating figures, shapes, and texts that could 
metamorphose from one thing to another depending on the viewers 
reading of them. 

Albers was clearly aware that the strict limitations of the weaving 
process could easily overwhelm creativity, so she continually advanced 
the role of improvisation anti frequentl}' brought up the subject of play 
when discussing the creative process. In her 1941 article "Handweaving 
Today," for example, she suggested that designing at the loom should first 
involve play: 

An elementary approach will be a playfiil beginning, unresponsive 
to any demand of usefdness, an enjoyment of colors, forms, surface 
contrasts and harmonies, a tactile sensuousness. This first and 
always most important pleasure in the physical qualities of materials 
needs but the simplest techjiique and must be sustai)U'd tluvugh 
the most complicated one. For just this satisfaction coming f'om 
material qualities is part of the satisfaction we get from art/" 
Through this playful working with materials, Albers believed that the 
artist could begin to create meaningful form. 

Two main efforts dominated Albers's work of the 1960s: large 
woven murals for public spaces — primarily ark curtains for synagogues — 
and her book On Weaving, which is still a standard text in weaving courses 
today. The .synagogue commissions required Albers to approach text- 
related issues in yet another way, and this resulted in powerful ark curtains 
that both protect and celebrate the Hebrew Scriptures. 

Albers achieved the union of art and utility that is evident in 
these curtains through her admiration and imderstandin" of the work of 
Klee, who .sought to interpret the physical and metaphysical worlds 
in codified yet playful ways. Ihis union can equally be attributed to her 
study of Andean textiles. In On Weaving s\\e described the work of the 
Andean weavers with admiration: 

Of infinite phantasy withi)i the world of threads, conveying strength 
or playfidness, mystery or the reality of their surroundings, endlessly 
varied in presentation and construction, even though bound to 
a code of basic concepts, these textiles set a standard of achievement 
that is unsurpassed." 

From these two sources, Albers deri\ed the inspiration for her 
exploration of semantics within the field of weaving. As a teacher, 
collector, student, and artist, Albers has inspired subsequent generations 
of artists and designers to strive to create, like Klee, the Andean weavers, 
and Albers herself, an art that is lastint: and meaniniiful. 



35 



Pre-Columbian textile 
fragments from Anni Albers's 
personal collection 

33. Late Intermediate period 
(1100-1400 ad). Cotton and wool, 
36.2 X 18. 1 cm (14X X 7/s inches). 
The Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation, Bethany PC018. 

34. Nasca period (100 BC-700 AD). 
Wool, 36.2 X 7.9 cm 

(14 )< X 3/8 inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers 

Foundation, Bethany PC032. 







35. Middle Horizon period 

(500-900 ad). Cotton and 

wool, 27.6 X 30.2 cm 

(10 Ts X II 7s inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers 

Foundation, Bethany PC020. 



■i.'A *"^ — rlfliTnTtifi I I 







36 



Notes 



1. Mary Jane Jacob, in tur (.ssay "Anni 
Albcrs: A Modern Weaver as Artist," in 
The Woven and (iraphic Art of Anni Albers 
(Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Press, 
1985), was the first to discuss the textual 
references in Albers's pictorial weavings, 
and she also briefly mentioned a connection 
between Albers's open weaves and her 
contact with Peruvian weaving (p. 72). For 
further discussion of these topics, see the 
following essays by Virginia Gardner 
Troy: "Anni Albers: The Significance of 
Ancient American Art for Her Woven and 
Pedagogical Work," Ph.D. diss., Emory 
University, Atlanta, 1997 (Ann Arbor, 
Mich.: UMI Publications, 1997); "Anni 
Albers und die Icxtilkunst der Anden, ' in 
Josef Helfenstein and Henriette Mentha, 
eds., Josef und Anni Albers, Europa und 
Amerika. Kiinstlerpaare — Kiinsllerfreunde 
(exh. cat.; Bern: Kunstmuseum Bern; 
Cologne: Dumont, 1998); and "Andean 
Textiles at the Bauhaus: Awareness and 
Application," Surface Design Journal lo, 

no. 2 (winter 1996), pp. lO-ii, 35-37. 

2. Anni Albers, On Weaving (M\A<i\cuwjn. 
Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1965), 
pp. 69-70. 

3. Ibid., p. 6. 

4. Sevim Fesci, interview with Anni 
AJbers, New Haven, Conn., July 5, 1968, 
Archives of American Art, New York; 
transcript in The Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation archives, p. 5. 

5. Richard Polsky, interview with Anni 
Albers, Orange, Conn., Jan. 11, 1985, 
"American Craftspeople Project," Oral 
Resesarch Office, Columbia Universit)-, 
New York; transcript in The Josef and Anni 
Albers Foundation archives, pp. 49-51. 

6. Recent texts that discuss the subject 

of thread as a social document in terms of 
ancient American textiles include Jane 
Schneider, "The Anthropolog)' of Cloth, " 
Annual Review of Anthropology 16 (1987), 
pp. 409-48; Rebecca Stone-Miller, To 
Weave for the Sun: Andean Textiles in the 
Museum of Fine Arts (Boston: Museum of 
Fine Arts, 1992); Elizabeth Hill Boone 
and Walter Mignolo, eds.. Writing Without 
Words: Alternative Literacies in Mesoamerica 
and the Andes (Durham: Duke University 
Press, 1994); and Cesar Paternosto, 
The Stone and the Thread: Andean Roots 
of Abstract Art, trans. Esther Allen (Austin: 
University of Texas Press, 1996). 

7. Albers described multiweave construc- 
tions within the context of Andean textiles 
in On Weaving (p. 50): "Double weaves are 
fabrics that have two separate layers which 
can be locked at both sides, at one side, or, 
within the fabric, at any number of places 
where the design asks for an exchange of 
top and bottom layers, usually of difVerent 
colors. There are also triple weaves and 
quadruple weaves. ... In ancient Peru, 
double weaves in complicated designs were 
made, and triple weaves have been found, 
.IS well as a small quadruple piece. If a 
highly intelligent people with no written 



language, no graph paper, and no peniiK 
could manage such inventions, wc should 
be able — easily I hope — to repeat at lease 
these structures." 

8. Recent texts that discuss the weaving 
workshop at the Bauhaus include Anja 
Baumhoff, "Gender Art and Handicraft at 
the Bauhaus," Ph.D. diss., Johns Hopkins 
University, Baltimore, 1994; M.igdalena 
Droste, Giinia .SVoZz/ (Berlin: Bauhaus-Archiv, 
1987); Petra Maria Jocks, "Eine Weberin 

am Bauhaus, Anni Albers, Zwischen Kunst 
und Leben," Master's thesis, University of 
Frankfurt am Main, 1986; Ingrid Radewaldt, 
"Bauhaustextilien 1919-1933," Ph.D. diss.. 
University of Hamburg, 1986; and Sigrid 
Wortmann Weltge, Bauhaus Textiles 
(London: Thames and Hudson, 1993). 

9. In her 1924 article "Bauhauswebcrei," 
Albers (who was then known as Annelise 
Fleischmann) suggested that modern 
weavers could learn from ancient weavers, 
who wove "according to the inherent prop- 
erties of handicraft and material" rather 
than following prepared plans. 
"Bauhauswebcrei," Junge Menschen 8 
(Nov. 1924), p. 188; reprinted in Bauhaus 
Weimar: Sonderheft der Zeitschrift "Junge 
Menschen" (Munich: Kraus Reprint, 1980). 
ID. This was discussed in two important 
pre- World War I German publications: 
W. Rciss and A. Stiibel, Das Totenfeld von 
Ancon (Berlin, 1880-87), translated into 
English as The Necropolis at Ancon in Peru 
(London and Berlin: Asher & Co., 1906); 
and Max Schmidt, "Uber Altperuanischc 
Gewcbe mit Szenenhaften Darstellungen," 
in P. Ehrenreich, ed., Baessler-Archiv: 
Beitnige zur Viilkerkunde, vol. i (Leipzig 
and Berlin: leubner Verlag, 1911; New 
York: Johnson Reprint, 1968). During the 
Weimar Bauhaus period, these factors 
were discussed in Ernest Fuhrmann, Reich 
der Inka (Hagcn and Darmstadt: Folkwang 
Museum, 1922); ^'ilhelm Hausenstein, 
Barbaren und Klassiker: ein Buch von der 
BiUnerei exotischer Volker (Munich: Piper 
Verlag, 1922); Herbert Kiihn, Die Kunst 
der Primitiven (Munich: Delphin-Verlag, 
1923); and Eckart von Sydow, Die Kunst der 
Naturvolker t4nd der Vorzeit (Berlin: 
Propylaen-Kunstgeschichte, 1923). Albers 
and other members of the Bauhaus were 
most likely familiar with all of these books. 
See Troy, "Anni Albers: The Significance of 
Ancient American Art for Her Woven and 
Pedagogical Work," pp. 37-44 and 65-74. 
II. Albers joined the Bauhaus in 1922, 
taking the preliminary course with Georg 
Muche at that time and then Johannes 
Itten's course in 1922-23. In 1923, her third 
semester, she joined the weaving workshop. 
During her fourth semester, in 1923-24, 
she assisted in the dye laboratory, and in 
her fifth semester, in 1924, she most likely 
completed her first wall hanging. She 

took Vasily Kandinsky's "thcor\' of form" 
course during the 1925-26 semester. From 
September to December 1929, she was act- 
ing director of the weaving workshop. After 



37 



graduating in 1930 Albers worked indepen- 
dently and again served briefly (during the 
fall of 1931) as director of the weaving 
workshop. Droste, Guiita StolzL pp. 143-55. 

12. Albers had purchased Klee's Two Forces 
{Zwei Kraft, 1922) in 1924. The Josef and 
Anni Albers Foundation generously provid- 
ed me with this information. 

13. Neil Welliver, "A Conversation with 
Anni Albers, " Craft Horizons, July-Aug. 
1967, p. 15. 

14. Nicholas Fox Weber, "Anni Albers to 
Date," in The Woven and Graphic Art of 
Anni Albers, p. 19. 

15. Klee's notes for this lesson, which he 
titled "Constructive Approaches to 
Composition," appear in Klee, Notebooks, 
Vol. Two: The Nature of Nature, ed. Jiirg 
SpiUer, trans. Heinz Norden (New York: 
Wittenborn, 1973), p. 241. The lesson is not 
dated, but it follows his lessons on structure 
dated Saturday, 10 November 1923, and it 

is assumed that "Constructive Approaches 
to Composition" was included in the same 
series. (The dates of lessons are not always 
clear in the two published volumes of 
Klee's notebooks.) 

Josef and Anni Albers owned a copy of 
Klee's classroom handbook, Piidagogisches 
Skizzenbuch (published by the Bauhaus in 
1925), which included his earlier classroom 
exercises. The handbook was published 
in English as Pedagogical Sketchbook, ed. 
Walter Gropius and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 
trans. Sibyl Moholy-Nagy (New York: 
Praeger, 1953). 

16. Welliver, "A Conversation with Anni 
Albers," p. 21. 

17. Albers remarked in 1984 that her interest 
in Pre-Columbian art began in Germany, 
and that she frequently visited the ethno- 
graphic museums there. Nicholas Fox Weber, 
video interview with Anni Albers, 1984, 
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation 
archives. 

18. By 1907, the Museum fur Volkerkunde 
in Berlin already owned more than 7,500 
Andean textiles, making it the largest col- 
lection of these textiles in Europe at the 
time. Major donations of Andean art to 
the museum included the Baessler donation 
of 11,690 items in 1899 and the Reiss and 
Stubel donation of 2,000 items in 1879. 
The museum acquired 2,400 items in 1882 
from Dr. Jose Mariano Macedo of Lima, 
and subsequently the large Centeno collec- 
tion from Cuzco in 1888 and the Bolivar col- 
lection in 1904. Wilhelm Grctzer sold 27,254 
ancient American pieces to the museum in 
1907. Immina von Schuler-Schomig, "The 
Central Andean Collections at the Museum 
fiir Volkerkunde, Berlin, Their Origin 

and Present C^rganization," in Anne-Marie 
Hocquenghcm, ed., Pre-Columbian 
Collections in European Museums (Budapest: 
Akademiai Kiado, 1987), pp. 163-65. See 
also Corinna Raddatz, "Christian Thcodor 
Wilhelm Gretzer and his Pre-(^olumbian 
Collection in the Niedersiichsisches 
Landesmuseum of Hannover," in the same 



publication (pp. 169—75). 

19. Albers used Lehmann's book, as well 
as Max Schmidt's extensive Kunst und 
Kultur von Peru (1929), when she taught 
at Black Mountain College, according to 
former students Don Page and Lore 
Kadden Lindenfeld and former colleague 
Tony Landreau. (Letters to the author 
from Page, Sept. 4, 1996; Lindenfeld, 
Nov. 20, 1996; and Landreau, Sept. 25, 
1996.) Albers's personal slide collection 
included numerous images from Lehmann's 
book, as well as images of other Andean 
textiles, and she owned the 1934 French 
edition of d'Harcourt. (Much of Albers's 
library is now held at The Josef and Anni 
Albers Foundation.) Schmidt's Kunst und 
Kultur von Peru was published by Ullstein; 
Albers's mother, Toni Ullstein Fleischmann, 
was a member of this prominent publishing 
family. 

20. A summary of the Alberses' travels fol- 
lows: 1934, Florida, Havana; 1935, Mexico; 
1936, Mexico; 1937, Mexico; 1938, Florida; 
1939, Mexico; 1940, Mexico; 1941, Mexico; 
1946-47, Mexico, New Mexico; 1949, 
Mexico; 1952, Mexico, Havana; 1953, Chile, 
Peru; 1956, Mexico, Peru, Chile; 1962, 
Mexico; 1967, Mexico. This list was com- 
piled from documents held in the Black 
Mountain College Papers, North Carolina 
State Archives, Raleigh, and The Josef and 
Anni Albers Foundation archives. 

21. For information regarding the Alberses' 
trips to Mexico in 1937 and 1939, see Toni 
Ullstein Fleischmann's 1937-39 travel diaries; 
English transcript, translated by 
Fleischmann's grandson Theodore Benfey, in 
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation 
archives. Anni's mother and father, Toni and 
Siegfried Fleischmann, met Josef and Anni 
in Veracruz in 1937 and again in 1939 after 
fleeing Nazi Germany. 

The Alberses had three main collections 
of ancient American art: The Josef and 
Anni Albers Collection of Pre-Columbian 
Art, which is now housed at the Peabody 
Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, and 
at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation 
(see Karl Taube, The Josef and Anni Albers 
Collection of Pre-Columbian Art [New York: 
Hudson Hills Press, 1988], p. 9, and Anni 
Albers and Michael Coe, Pre-Columbian 
Mexican Miniatures: The Josef and Anni 
Albers Collection [New York: Praeger, 1970], 
p. 4); The Anni Albers Collection of 
Pre-Columbian Textiles (comprised of 113 
Andean textiles), which is now at the Josef 
and Anni Albers Foundation; and The 
Harriett Englehardt Memorial Collection 
of Textiles (comprised of ninety-two 
textiles purchased by Anni Albers for Black 
Mountain College), which is now housed 
at Yale University Art Gallery. Bl.ick 
Mountain College Papers, vol. 2, box 8; 
and Troy, "Anni Albers: The Significance 
of Ancient American Art for Her Woven 
and Pedagogical Work," pp. 163-69. 

22. A cotton Chancay in Albers's collection 
is particularly striking because it is one of 



38 



the few fully finished pieces that she owned. 
It has four finished edges, or selvages, and 
although it h,is become somewhat distorted 
due to wear, is approximately the size of a 
standard sheet of paper (seven by eleven 
inches). On it, rwcnty-five cuttlefish were 
woven using the supplementar)'-weft 
technique. Albers would have appreciaicd 
the completeness ol this work and 
the repetition ot the fish in grid formation. 

23. Albers and Coe, Pre-Columbian 
Mexican Miniatures: The Josef and Anni 
Albers Collection, p. 2. 

24. Fesci, interview with Albers, juiv 5, 
1968, p. 3. 

25. Mary Jane Jacob described the side 
portions ot these two weavings as "margin- 
like borders." Jacob, "Anni Albers: 

A Modern Weaver as Artist," p. 93. 

26. Polsky, interview with Albers, Jan. 11, 
1985, p. 43. 

27. Welliver, "A Conversation with .•Xnni 
Albers," p. 22. Albers frequently referred to 
her pictorial work as a method ol working, 
as a way for her to approach art and to 
possibly rise to the level of art. Albers, 
"\Xbrk with Materials" (1937), in Albers, On 
D«;^;///f (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan 
Universit)' Press, 1971, 1987), p. 52. 

28. Albers, introduction, in Anni Albers: 
Pictorial Weavings (exh. cat.; Cambridge, 
Mass.: MIT Press, 1959), p. 3. 

29. Rebecca Stone-Miller, An of the Andes 
from Chai'in to Inca (London: Thames and 
Hudson, 1995), p. 212. 

30. Polsky, interview with Albers, Jan. 11, 
1985, pp. 45-46. 

31. Albers, On Weaving, p. 68. 

32. For this technique, the cloth was 
woven with a short vertical warp and long, 
pattern-carrying weft threads in the hori- 
zontal direction. Thus the Andean weaver 
was oriented "sideways" to the final design, 
a feat that required great mental and visual 
dexterity. See Stone-Miller, To Weave for 
the Sun, p. 38. 

33. Klee's Carpet of Memory ( Teppich der 
Erinnerung, 1914), for example, was originally 
made in a vertical direction and then turned 
horizontally. Susanna Partsch, Paul Klee 
(Cologne: Benedikt Ttschen, 1993), p. 28. 

34. In the same year that Albers wove Two 
the first major De StijI exhibition was 
presented at the Museum of Modern Art 
in New York. It is likely that Albers saw 
the exhibition, becau.se at the time she 
was visiting New York regularly to conduct 
research with the Andean textile scholar 
Junius B. Bird at the American Museum 
of Natural History. Correspondence 
between Junius B. Bird and Anni Albers, 
February and March 1952, Junius B. Bird 
Papers, American Museum of Natural 
Histor)-, New York. 

Albers wrote at least one scholarly article 
on the subject of Andean weaving tech- 
niques, "A Structural Process in Weaving," 
written in 1952 for a course she attended at 
Yale Universir)-, which was taught by 
George Kubler. Albers revi.sed the essay 



after a lengthy correspondence with Bird, 
and it was subsequently published in 
On Designing. In it, Albers investigated 
how Andean weavers were able to weave 
large widths ot cloth on hand looms, 
concluding that the weavers must have 
utilized a triple- or quadruple-layer 
technique on frame looms; each plane 
ot warps must have been woven .iccordion- 
style so that, when unfolded, it yielded 
a single web ot greater dimensions than 
the loom itself. Susan Niles. in her article 
"Artist and Empire in Inca Colonial 
Textiles," in Stone-Miller, To Weave for 
the Sun, p. 56, proposed that the weavers 
used a hinged loom, which would also 
have produced a large web. C'onsidering 
that Albers was not .1 tcxiile scholar 
per se, her solution to this problem was 
advanced for the time. 

35. It is likely that Albers was familiar with 
the journal De StiJl trom her Bauhaus 
years. In addition, she and Josef owned 
Principles of Neo- Plastic Art, edited by 
Theo van Doesburg and published by the 
Bauhaus in 1925. Albers is said to have liked 
van Doesburg's work, and ma)' have met 
him in Ciermany before his death in 1932. 
Conversation with Nicholas Fox Weber, 
Nov. 18, 1966. 

36. See Rebecca Stone-Miller, "Camclids 
and Chaos in Huari and Tiwanaku 
Textiles," in Richard Townscnd, ed.. The 
Ancient Americas (exh. cat.; Chicago: Art 
Institute of Chicago, 1992), p. 336, for 

a discussion of Andean abstraction. For a 
summary of De Stijl, see Yve-Alain Bois, 
"The De Stijl Idea," in Painting iis Model 
(Cambridge, Mass.: Ml'F Press, 1990). 

37. A large Klee memorial exhibition was 
held at the Museum of Modern Art in 
1941. The accompanying catalogue, Paul 
Klee, edited by Margaret Miller, was revised 
and expanded in 1945. Albers had easy 
access to numerous exhibitions of Klee's 
work in galleries and museums in New 
York. For example, sixty works by Klee 
were exhibited at the Buchholz Gallery 
from January to February 1951, and thirt)'- 
one works were exhibited at the New 

Art Circle trom April to May 1952. 

38. A pictograph is a sign with figurative 
references, as Albers used in Monte Alban. 
In titling Pictographic, however, she 
used the term in a more general way, as 
the work does not refer to an external 
figurative subject but rather to the notion 
and the image ot mark-making. 

39. Flcischmann describes this purchase 
in her travel diaries, p. 24. 

40. Albers, "Handweaving Today — 
Textile Work at Black Mountain College," 

The Weaver G, no. i (Jan. -Feb. 1941), p. 3. 

41. Albers, On Weaving, p. 69. 



39 



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36. UntitUcL 1934. 

Rayon, linen, cotton, wool, and jute, 
53.3 X 116.8 cm (21 X 46 inches). 
Collection of Mrs. John Wilkie, 
New York 




37- Ancient Writing, 1936. 
Rayon, linen, cotton, and jute, 
149.8 X III cm (59 X 43 % inches). 
National Museum of American Art, 
Smithsonian Institution, 
Washington, D.C., 
Gift of John Young 1984.150. 



41 




38. Monte Alban, 19^6. Silk, linen, and wool, 

146 X 112 cm (57 X X 44 inches). 

The Busch-Reisinger Museum, 

Harvard University Art Museums, 

Cambridge, Massachusetts, 

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard G. Leahy 

BR 81.5. 



42 




39- L'^ I^'iiz /, 1947. 

Cotton, hemp, and metallic gimp, 

47 X 82.5 cm (18 X X 32X inches). 

The Josef and Anni Aibers Foundation, 

Bethany. 



43 







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40. Untitled, 1948. Linen and cotton, 
41.9 X 49.5 cm (16 Xx 19 X inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Edgar Kautmann, Jr. Fund 
200.50. 



44 



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41. Cityscape, 1949. Bast and cotton, 
44.5 X 67.3 cm {ij'A X 26X inches). 
Collection of Ruth Agoos Villalovos. 



45 

















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42. Black-White-Gold L 1950. 

Cotton, jute, and metallic ribbon, 

63.5 X 48.3 cm (25 X 19 inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany. 



46 




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43. Development in Rose I, 1952. 

Cotton and hemp, 

57 X 43.8 cm (22 X(. X 17X inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany. 



47 




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44. Tivo, 1952. Linen, cotton, and rayon, 
46.4 X 104 cm (18 K X 41 inches). 
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 
Bethany, Gift of John Norton and 
Lucia N. Woodruff 



48 







45. Untitle/^, 1950. Cotton and bast, 
64.8 X 38.1 cm (25/^ X 15 inches). 
Cunningham Dance Foundation, 
New York. 



49 
















46. Red Meander, 1954. Linen and 
cotton, 65 X 50 cm (25 % X 19 % inches). 
Collection of Ruth Agoos Villalovos. 



50 




47- Pi^y of Squares, 1955. 

Wool and linen, 

87.6 X 62.2 cm (34X X 24X inches). 

The Currier Galler)' of Art, 

Manchester, New Hampshire, 

Currier Funds 1956.3. 



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48. I htckly Settled, 1957. Cotton 

and jute, 78.7 X 62 cm (31 X 24K inches) 

Yale University Art Gallery, 

New Haven, Connecticut, 

Director's Purchase Fund 1972.83. 



52 



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49. Open Letter, 1958. Cotton, 

58.4 X 59.7 cm (23 X 23X inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany. 



53 




50. In the Landscape, 1958. 
Cotton and jute, 

29.5 X 98.5 cm (11 /« X 38 "A<, inches). 
Collection of Dt. William and 
Constance G. Kantar. 



51. South of the Border, 1958. 
Cotton and wool, 
10.6 X 38.7 cm (4 Mr, X 15 /f, inches). 
The Baltimore Museum of Art, 
Decorative Arts and Contemporary 
Crafts Fund 1959.91. 







54 




52. Pasture, 1958. Mercerized cotton, 
35.6 X 39.4 cm [i^Yu. X 15% inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Purchase, Edward C. 
Moore, Jr., Gift, 1969 69.1^5. 



55 




53- Red and Blue Layers, 1954. Cotton, 
61 X 36.8 cm (24 X 14X inches). 
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 
Bethany, Formerly collection of 
Mrs. Eleanor Grossman. 



56 












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54. Frow rA^- East, 1963. Cotton and plastic, 

65.4 X 42 cm (25 X 16M inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany. 



57 




55- Variation on a Theme, 1958. 
Cotton, linen, and plastic, 
87.6 X 77.5 cm (34;/ X 30/<inches) 
Collection of Dr. and Mrs. 
Theodore Dreier, Jr. 



58 



i. "•• 



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• ♦ 






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56. Haiku, 1961. Cotton, hemp, 

and metallic thread, 

57.2 X 18.4 cm {ii'A X 7X inches). 

The Joset and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany. 




57. Code, 1962. Cotton, hemp, 

and metallic thread, 

58.4 X 18.4 cm (23 X 7K inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany. 



59 




58. Intersecting, 1962. 
Cotton and rayon, 40 X 42 cm 
(15%, X i6'A inches). 
Collection of Katharine and 
Nicholas Weber. 



60 



s^M)smtsr?tt. 




59. Liuicr Way, 1963. 
Cotton, linen, and wool, 
74 X 61.2 cm (29 'A X 24/* inches) 
Hirshhorn Museum and 
Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian 
Institution, Washington, D.C., 
Bequest of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 
1986. 



61 





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6o. 5zx Prayers, 1966-67. Cotton, linen, bast, and silver thread; six panels, 186 x 50 cm (73 X<, x 19 % inches) each. 
The Jewish Museum, New York, Gift of Albert A. List Family JM149-71-6. 



62 



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63 



On the Structure of the Weavings 

Jean-Paul Leclercq 




5*c ^^ -!* ■• «e % 



6i. Detail of Two, 1952 (see cat. no. 44). 

Two (1952) presents a strictly orthogonal 
pattern in dark brown and yellow. There 
are several right-angle direction changes, 
but the entire pattern is organized around 
the basic unit of the square. The plain- 
weave checkerboard ground in subtly con- 
trasting tones gives the piece its rhythm. 
The result is very different from the hang- 
ings that Albers made at the Bauhaus; 
the patterns of those works are also strictly 
orthogonal, but are built on intersecting 
rectilinear strips of unequal width. 

In works with abstract patterns, the 
direction in which the piece should be 
viewed is difficult to determine if one does 
not understand the designer's intentions. 
In Two, Albers indicated the direction by 
adding her embroidered signature at the 
lower right. The warp in this work is hori- 
zontal, not vertical; the piece was woven 
lengthwise, in the direction of the warp, 
but has a transversal pattern, to be read 
weftwise. Although generally uncommon, 
examples of textiles with a pattern in the 
weft direction can be found in the European 
tradition, such as the mid-fitteenth-century 
altar-front pieces comprised of a single 
width of figured gold brocaded velvet used 
horizontally, with a very large pattern 
unit made of a single comber unit. Patterns 
in the weft direction are also found in late- 
eightcenth-ccntury textiles in which the 
pattern has a top end intended for furniture 
borders; these are woven in two or more 
bands within the width of the fabric. In 
such cases, the width of ihc fabric becomes 



the height of the pattern, and the 
pattern width is thus independent of the 
fabric's width. 

The pattern in Two is formed by an 
additional twill float, and the thick white 
weft — that is, every other ground pick — 
therefore floats to the back, without binding. 

The checkerboard ground perfectly 
illustrates Albers's interest in texture, mate- 
rial, and structure. While the weave does 
not change, variations in appearance are 
achieved through the warping, the shuttling 
order, and the binary properties of 
the plain weave. The warping alternates 
between a thick dark cream thread and a 
thinner white thread. During the weaving, 
Albers alternately passed a thin black weft 
pick and then a thick white weft pick, thus 
creating the two different combinations. 

In the dark squares, the thick dark 
cream warp binds and covers the thick 
white weft, and, conversely, the fine black 
weft can easily be seen because it goes 
to the front above the thick warp. This is 
what produces dominant lines in the 
direction of the weft that alternate between 
black and dark cream. In the light squares, 
the thick white weft is bound only by 
the thin white warp, but it is set apart when 
it is above the thick dark cream warp, 
which binds the fine black weft on the 
front, keeping it rather hidden. 

The checkerboard pattern is created 
very simply, by inverting evenness at the 
end of each square. In the direction of 
the weft, going from one square to another 
is accomplished by warping two consecu- 
tive threads from the same warp; in the 
direction of the warp, it is executed during 
weaving, with two consecutive picks of 
the same weft. 



The possibilities afforded by the play 
of even and odd (or alternating) threads 
are very important in plain weave and its 
variations (like the addition of weft or 
warp cords), and the fact that Albers drew 
on these possibilities here reflects her ten- 
dency to play with structure and material. 
But she would have found an identical 
example among the samples included in 
a study conducted around 1790 of fabrics 
manufactured in France.' In this eigh- 
teenth-century example, the threads are 
finer and there is no pattern other than the 
one produced by the plain weave and the 
warp and weft materials. Yet the evenne.ss 
inversions are made with two dark blue 
threads, or two dark blue picks, while the 
other threads, in both the weft and the 
warp, alternate between white and pale 
blue. Thus the squares have a dark outline 
and the checkerboard resembles a tabby 
on the scale of baskerwork made of large 
twigs. Blue and white lines are created by 
the material and the weave; in one square 
(which resembles a vertical rectangle), they 
follow the direction of the warp, while in 
the next (which resembles a horizontal 
rectangle), they follow the direction of the 
weft. The result is a fabric that appears to 
consist of weft and warp threads as wide 
as these squares and bound in the form of 
a plain weave. 

I. Registre d'Enqucte Industrielle, Toiles et 
Toileries (Paris, ca. 1790), Mu.see de la 
Mode et du Textile, Palais du Louvre, Paris, 
Union Centrale des Arts Decoratifs, p. 329. 



64 




62. Detail of La Luz /, 1947 (see cat. no. 39). 

At first, La Luz I (1947) seems to have a 
graphic quaht)' that is foreign to the rest ot 
Albers's work and to the Bauhaus aesthetic: 
its symmetrical pattern suggests a cross 
or some sort of symbolic bird, such as an 
eagle. The piece's scale, however, allows us 
to perceive the individual play of threads, 
with twelve warp threads and seven weh 
picks per centimeter. The latter number 
varies greatly, as the thick brownish-yellow 
weft is approximately half a centimeter 
wide. Some of the processes used by Albers 
in this work can be found later in her 
cailigraphic-stir'le "pictorial wcavings. " 
This is a short, horizontal piece, 
wider in the weft direction than it is long 
in the warp direction. The basic weave, as 
it appears at the top and bottom in the 
plain strips, comes from the warp twill (3/1, 
S direction), with the space between warp 
threads giving the textile a dominant weft. 
But elsewhere it varies, ver\' irregularly in 
the ground, and there are also additional 
brocading wefts. In some places these bro- 
cading wefts are bound in plain weave by 
several consecutive warp threads, while the 
other warp threads float freely to the back, 
thus introducing a local binding .system 
between two ground picks. These are the 
kinds of liberties allowed by tapestr\' work 
as it wa.s practiced by the Copts. Ihe 



brocading is not on top of the binding sys- 
tem, but rather introduces its own system, 
using the same warp threads as the ground 
weave on several consecutive picks. 

Despite the general simplicity ot 
the pattern, AJbers played with both the 
material and the weave; the grounds 
varied shuttling order competes with the 
integration ot the brocading and with 
area weave variations to remove any 
seeming repetitions. Irregularities are created 
through weaving by the inclusion ot 
additional wefts in certain areas, and else- 
where they are obtained through material, 
by the use of complex or uneven thread. 

In the main pattern, the brocaded 
thread repeatedly returns on the front, 
rather than on the back, to get to its next 
starting point. Technically facilitated by 
weaving on the front, this Andean process, 
which is still practiced today, is used in all 
of Albers's "pictorial weavings. " The process 
accentuates the continuirv' of the weft 
thread from one pick to the next, exposing 
its vertical course as well as its horizontal 
one. This produces rounded shapes, 
oblique lines — which, in other pieces by 
.-Mbers, such as Frotyt the East (1963), are 
sometimes crossed — or even vertical lines 
(in which case the weft thread runs parallel 
10 the warp thread). For these shapes and 
lines to be visible, the scale of the weft 
thread in relation to the pattern and to 
the textile has to be large enough for the 
course of a single thread to be seen, as 
it is in Albers's Black-White-Gold I (i^^o). 
Haiku (1961), Code (1962), Intersecting 
(1962), and From the East. 

The technique of placing the returns 
of the brocading thread on the front was 



used in fifteenth-century velvets with gold- 
thread brocaded elements for technical 
reasons, but in these works it seems to have 
been a constraint, rather than an element 
of the pattern; the patterns are figurative 
and the gold file is much too fine for 
its graphic quality to have been utilized. 
In other European examples, these returns 
appear more often on the backs of the 
textiles, or along the selvages, where the 
pattern weft thread does not integrate 
into the selvage weave. In such works, the 
continuitv' of the weft thread from one 
pick to the next is a hidden feature and 
does not have a prominent graphic quality, 
which is a violation ot a fundamental 
premise of Western textiles. 



65 






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63. Detail of In the Landscape, 1958 
(see cat. no. 50). 

In the Landscape (1958), like La Luz /(1947), 
is also a horizontal piece with a short warp. 
It has a striped and banded plain weave, 
with brocading that shifts about on the face 
and is vertical in certain areas. 

With warping that alternates between 
fine black threads and thick threads in 
various colors, the textile, which is loosely 
woven, presents a dominant weft, though 
its weave appears to have a square pattern 
because the warp threads bind the weft 
picks of the same material. Like the warp- 
ing, the shuttling order alternates between 
a fine black weft and a thick colored weft, 
except in the bands at the top and bottom, 
where a thick orange-yellow thread is 
used exclusively in the weft:. 

Elsewhere, the black warp (the odd 
thread) binds the black weft (the odd 
pick), and as both are fine they are rather 
inconspicuous. Meanwhile, the colored 
warp (the even thread) binds the colored 
weft (the even pick), both of which have 
heavy sections. In some areas, the basic 



lat changes color according to a tapestry 
technique, but it is still bound by the 
colored warp. 

The brocading pick is added on the 
front of the binding system, which is tabby. 
The black warp threads bind the brocading 
lat with the fine black weft simultaneously, 
with the two passes together in the shed. 
When it is bound by the fine black warp 
in this way, the brocading pick, which is 
dark blue, is barely interrupted visually and 
appears to be continuous, winding above 
the squarelike ground produced by the 
plain weave. 

This is a good example of the diverse 
uses of a single weave, which here has been 
varied through the unique possibilities 
offered by the warping, the shuttling order, 
and the local doubling of one of the two 
ground picks with a brocading pick. This 
produces a double tabby weave, which 
is typical of silk textiles. 



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64. Detail oi Black-White-Gold I, 1950 
(see cat. no. 41). 

Black-White-Gold I {\<)so) is a superb 
example ot Alber.s's calligraphic-style "pic- 
torial weavings." Like her La Ltiz /(1947) 
and In the Landscape (1958), it is also pre- 
sented in the direction of the warp, but it 
is longer in the direction of the warp than 
it is in the direction of the weft — that is, 
its larger dimension is not horizontal. 
Here again Albcrs used a striped, banded, 
and brocaded plain weave, playing with the 
warping and shuttling order in complex 
ways to create a background with squares. 

The low density of the weave com- 
pared to the scale oi the piece — eight warp 
threads and three to tour vveh picks per 
centimeter — allows the threads to be read 
individually, while the curves of the black 
and white brocading picks are highlighted. 
The ground weave is patterned in vertical 
strips of a single color or a combination 
of two colors — black, black and white, 
brown and black, or brown — with the 



variation in the order: brown jute pick 
in the first shed, gold lamella pick in the 
second. 

The warping alternates between white 
odd threads and black even threads, but 
because .some are thin and others thick, 
the visibility of the white and black in the 
warp varies. Similarly, the warp reveals 
the two alternating wefts, brown jute and 
gold lamella, to varying degrees. As a 
result, there are four combinations, which 
are based on the section of the warp 
threads: even and odd threads, all ot which 
have a heavy section; even and odd threads, 
all of which have a delicate section; only 
odd threads with a heasy section; only even 
threads with a heasy section. The lamella 
and the jute are bound is some places by 
the white odd threads, and in other places 
by the black even threads. The luster of the 
lamella is interrupted most emphatically 
when the warp binding it is black and wide. 

The inversion in this piece is vertical, 
created by t%vo consecutive jute picks, 
following the principle of evenness inver- 
sions. (Albers's Two [1952] is an example 
of double evenness inversion, in both the 
warp and the weft.) 



65. Detail of Intersecting, 1962 
(see cat. no. 58). 

Intersecting (\<)6i), a striped, banded, and 
brocaded tabby, presents a particularly 
distinct use of the curves of brocading on 
the face. The white, orange, and blue 
brocaded thread contrasts in some cases 
with the warp thread and ground lat but 
not in others, yielding several inversions 
of contrast and readabilit)'. Generally, the 
brocaded threads are bound by the same 
warp threads, as there is a proportion of 
one brocading pick for every rwo ground 
picks; it is tabby hound, however, where 
there is one brocading pick for every 
ground pick. 



67 




66. Detail of From the East, 1963 
(see cat. no. 54). 

From the East {1963) transforms the com- 
mon look of a warp twill 3/1 using only its 
shuttling order. The pass has one more pick 
than the weave: a wide gold lamella, which 
is followed by four picks of a fine orange 
weft. This produces a gold lamella binding 
in warp twill 3/1, resembling a binding by 
the same warp threads on all picks. 

Here Albers was not playing with 
even and odd: the warp is prepared with 
eight repetitions of a sequence comprised 
of eight black threads, eight orange threads, 
eight white threads, and eight more orange 
threads. The degree to which the luster 
of the lamella is interrupted by the bindings 
depends on the color of the ends. As 
is often the case with Albers's "pictorial 
weavings," one has to search for the 
ground weave (from which variations have 
been made) in the bands that start and 
end the textile, which in this work have an 
all-black weft. 

Being supple, the lamella sinks below 
the bindings, losing its flatness and taking 
on an appearance similar to the pleated 
lamellas u.sed by embroiderers in the seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries. This 
resemblance, which most likely is fortuitous, 
can be found in many of Albers's works, 
as well as in examples from Europe's textile 
tradition. 



More interesting is Albers's violation 
of the usual distinction between the 
ground pick, the lisere\3.t, and the brocad- 
ing lat. The lamella comprises part of the 
twill ground weave, like each of the orange 
weft picks, but seems to have an effect like 
a lisere lat. This results from its width, 
which is greater than that of the orange 
band formed by the four orange weft picks 
that follow. Conversely, like a brocading 
lat, the lamella stops where the thick black 
weft passes; this weft then replaces the 
lamella in the warp twill 3/1 weave that is 
formed with the orange weft, but it contin- 
ues in a winding fashion, like a brocading 
pick, on the face (in accordance with 
Albers's favorite principle), and returns to 
the place where it will next replace the 
lamella. The relief has been enhanced by 
the use of the beater in places where the 
lamella is almost absent in a single pick. 
The higher relief is met in two areas, where 
two of the black threads cross in an X. 
Here two or more small hand shuttles have 
been used for a single medium, another 
characteristic of brocading; only one shuttle 
is used for a single material when it 
involves a ground lat, a lisere \at, or a weft- 
patterning lat, since the passage is performed 
with a shuttle across the entire width of 
the fabric. 



68 




67- Detail of Open Letter, 1958 
(see cat. no. 49). 

Open Letter (i'.)$S) is based on a plain weave, 
with gauze variations in several areas. It is a 
prime example of Albers's use of the binary 
as an organizing principle in her weaving. 

The warping is composed of a 
sequence of r%vo white threads (the first of 
which is a spiral thread) lollowed by two 
black threads; hence the warping unit 
consists of four threads, with the first two 
in a different and contrasting material than 
that of the last rwo. As a result, the work 
has a two-level, binary a.spect. 

There are twelve warping units, or 
forty-eight warp threads altogether, and the 
weaving effects are organized in strips of 
equal width that follow the direction of the 
warp. These strips are divided horizontally 
at intervals by bands ol plain weave that 
traverse the width ot the fabric; even 
though these bands are practically imper- 
ceptible, they produce a pattern of squares. 
The red from the brocading pick is added 
in places to the black and white of the 
warp and the ground weft. In plain-weave 
areas involving all the threads, the spiral 
thread — its winding quality highlighted 
by the two black threads of the warping 
unit — lends a dense gauze look to the 
fabric, which is due not to the texture of 
the fabric, but rather to the composite 



nature of the thread. Although Albers used 
threads with irregular sections in this and 
other pieces, she preferred to play with 
weaves; for her, textile art lay in the weave, 
rather than in the effect of the threads. 

Elsewhere, the plain weave brings out 
the color contrast between the warp 
threads: the white areas are woven with 
white sveft threads that are bound only by 
the white warp threads, the two black 
threads of the warping unit floating to the 
back; the black areas, on the other hand, 
are woven with black weft threads that arc 
bound only by the black warp threads, 
the rwo white threads of the warping unit 
floating to the back. 

In the areas where there are black 
rectangles on a white background, the 
weave becomes an extended tabby with 
two warp threads; the white weft is bound, 
in alternating fashion, by the two black 
warp threads and the r^vo white ones. 
The principle is the same in the areas with 
white rectangles on a black background, 
but here the weft is black instead of white. 

In the areas with black ribs striped 
with white, the weft is black and the bin/ 
ing alternates between the rwo black warj 
threads and the second, thin white warp 
thread; the white spiral warp thread floats 
to the back. The warp tension causes 
the rwo ribs corresponding to the black 
weft binding to protrude, by a single warp 
thread, which is white. Ihe relief inverts 
with the following weft pick, which 
is bound on the face with the nvo black 



threads; the same principle, but in reverse, 
applies also to the white weft. 

The many gauze effects in the piece 
are produced by various combinations of 
the different weft and warp thread types, 
textures, and colors. The black and white 
warp and weft threads that are not used act 
as a visual base for the deviating warp 
threads that ser\'e as the gauze. The visual 
effect is thus better controlled than with a 
transparent gauze that involves all the 
threads and picks, as in this case the effect 
is uncertain since it depends on the surface 
under the piece. Instances of the gauze 
technique used by Albers in this work can 
be found in the European textile tradition; 
among the gauzes by Tabourier, Bisson et 
Cie that were presented at the 1889 World 
Fair, for example, was a rwo-color piece, 
with green weft and warp gauze on a 
pink background and unused weft threads 
floating without binding to the back. 

In specific areas, there is both a red 
brocaded weft and an additional weft in 
either white or black that is woven in a 
tabby with one of the warps. Here the visu- 
al distinction between ground pick and 
brocading pick is blurred. 



69 







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68. Textile sample, ca. 1945. 
Cellophane and jute, 91 X 101.5 cm 
(35% X 40 inches). The Metropolitan 
Museum of Art, New York, 
Gift of Anni Albers 1970.75.9. 



70 




69. lextile sample, ca. i960. Linen, 
90 X 133 cm {35 X X 52 K inches). 
The Metropohtan Museum ot Art, 
New York, Gift of Anni Albcrs 
1970.75.16. 



71 



70. Drapery material, ca. 1935- 
Cellophane, rayon, and cotton, 
320 X 82.5 cm (126 X 32X inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of the designer 
67.75-SC. 









.1 .- 'JltlTiit 




71. Drapery material, 1961. 
Jute and metallic thread, 
121.9 X 132.1 cm (48 X 52 inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of the designer 
68.75-SC. 



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72. Drapery material, ca. 1948. 
Cotton and metallic thread, 
174 X 109.2 cm (68% X 43 inches). 
The Museum oi Modern Art, 
New York, (iift of the designer 
63.75.SC. 




73. Partition material, ca. 1949. 

Cotton, jute, horsehair, 

and cellophane, 151 x 85 cm 

(59 X X 33X inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

New York, Gift of Anni Albers 

1970.75.12. 



73 



74- Wall-covering material, 
ca. 1930. Linen and cellophane, 
325.1 X 119. 4 cm (128 X 47 inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gift of Anni Albers 
1970.75.4. 




75. Textile sample, ca. 1935. 
Cellophane, cotton, and rayon, 
174 X 82 cm (68 'Ax }!'/« inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gift of Anni Albers 
1970.75.13. 




74 




76. Textile sample, 1940. Rayon, 

260.4 ^ 8'-3 '-"ni (102 X X 32 inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 

Gift of Anni Albcrs 1970. 75. 11. 



75 



77- Textile sample, date unknown. 

Cotton, 28 X 20 cm 

(11 X 7 /s inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

New York, Gift of Anni Albers 

1970.75.72. 




78. Textile sample, date unknown. 

Cotton and wool, 

28.5 X 20 cm (11 K X 7 ?{ inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

New York, Gift of Anni Albers 

1970.75.69. 




j6 




79- Textile sample, dace unknown. 
Cotton and wool, 

28.5 X 19 cm (11 ■< X 7 / inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gift oi Anni Albers 
I970-7S-70. 






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80. Textile .sample, date unknown. 

Cotton and linen, 

27 X 20.5 cm (10 %x S'A inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum ot Art, 

New York, Gift of Anni Albers 

1970.75.68. 



77 



8i. Textile sample, date unknown. 

Cotton and jute, 

28 X 21 cm (11 X 8 ^ inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

New York, Gift of Anni Albers 

1970.75.73. 



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82. Textile sample, date unknown. 

Cotton and linen, 

28 X 21 cm (11X8^ inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

New York, Gift of Anni Albers 

1970.75.71. 






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78 




83. Upholstery material, ca. 1929. 
Cotton and rayon, 11.4 X 19.4 cm 
i^'Ax ■/% inches). Ihc Museum 
of Modern Art, New York, 
Gift of Josef Albers 450.70.61. 




84. Drapery material, date 
unknown. Cotton and metal foil, 
28 X 44 cm (11 X 17X inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gik of Anni Albers 
1970.75.20. 




85. Textile sample, ca. 1946. 
Cotton, linen, and metal toil, 
34 X 45 cm (13 'Ax i-jYa inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gift of Anni Albers 
1970.75.18. 



79 



86. Wall-covering material, 1929. 
Raffia, cellophane, and linen, 
II. 2 X 23.8 cm (4 X X 9 X inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of the designer 
426.51. 



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87. Textile sample, date unknown. 

Linen and rayon, 

17.7 X 26.6 cm (7 X loX inches). 

The Museum of Modern Art, 

New York, Gift of Josef Albers 

450.70.62. 



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88. Wall-covering material, 1929. 
Raffia, cellophane, and linen, 
II. 4 X 30.5 cm {4'/iX II inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of the designer 
424.51. 




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89. W;dl-covi.Min<; material, 1929- 
Raffia, cellophane, and linen, 
1 1.4 X 30.2 cm (4/ X II X inches). 
1 he Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Cnft of the designer 
421.51. 






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90. Textile sample, prohahly 
after 1933. Cotton and rayon, 
15.2 X 20.3 cm (6 X 8 inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.60. 




91. Wall-covering material, 1929. 
Raffia, cellophane, and linen, 
II. 4 X 30.5 cm (4X X 12 inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Ciift of the designer 
423.51. 



81 



92. Wall-covering material, 
probably after 1933. Cellophane, 
13.9 X 21 cm (5 X X 8 X inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.91. 






TT^^tr 



93. Wall-covering material, 
probably after 1933. Cellophane, 
14 X 15.9 cm (5 X X 6 X inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.93. 



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94. Wall-covering material, 
probably after 1933. Cellophane, 
12. 1 X 15.6 cm (4^X 6/^ inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.92. 



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82 




95- Textile sample, ca. 1948. 

Fiberglass, 19 x 15 cm 

(7X X 5 X inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

New York, Gift of Anni Albcrs 

1970.75.59- 

96. Textile sample, date unknown. 

Cellophane and cotton, 

22.5 X 18.5 cm (8X X 7X inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum ol Art, 

New York, Gift of Anni Albers 

1970.7S-S7- 




tl;*i« 















97. Textile sample, date unknown. 
Cellophane and cotton, 

20 X 19 cm (7X X 7/ inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gift of Anni Albers 
1970.75.56. 

98. Textile sample, ca. 1948. 
Fiberglass, 21 x 13.5 cm 
(8Xx 5X inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gift of Anni Albers 
1970.75.58. 




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i 










83 






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99. Textile sample, date unknown. 
Cotton and linen, 28 X 21 cm 

(11 X 8 /finches). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

New York, Gift of Anni Albers 

I970.75-4IC. 

100. Textile sample, date unknown. 
Cotton and linen, 

28 X 20.5 cm (11 X 8X inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gift of Anni Albers 
i970.75-4ib- 




■ii:^. 



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loi. Textile sample, date unknown. 

Cotton and linen, 

27 X 20 cm (10 >( X 7 /s inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

New York, Gift of Anni Albers 

i970.75-4ia. 

102. Textile sample, date unknown. 

Cotton and linen, 

27 X 20 cm (10 M! X 7 X inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

New York, Gift of Anni Albers 

1970.75.43. 



■■^ iSP 'J' ■■■i-r id^ 'vir .'i^ ' 





^a^j^ 




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84 









mm. 



103. Textile sample, date unknown. 
C^otton and linen, 

23 X 18 cm (9 X - :■( inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gih of Anni Albers 
1970.75.61. 

104. Textile sample, 1950. 
Cotton and linen, 

16 X 19 cm (loX X 7M inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gift of Anni Albers 
1970.75.60. 




105. lextile sample, ca. 1949. 
Linen and metallic thread, 

45.5 X 37 cm (17 X X 14X inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gift of Anni Albers 
1970.75.17. 

106. Textile sample, ca. 1959. 
Cotton and linen, 

42 X 35 cm (16 X X 13 K inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gift of Anni Albers 
1970.75.26. 



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SIS 

•»»•*« ••tint' 

mtttiUiiiVi 



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85 




loy. Textile sample, ca. 1951. 
Jute and metallic thread, 
21 X 17.7 cm (8 %■ X 7 inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef AJbers 
450.70.74- 

108. Textile sample, ca. 1951. 
Jute and metallic thread, 
24.2 X 16.5 cm {c)'Ax 6'A inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.72. 








109. Wall-covering material, 
probably after 1933. 
Cotton and metallic thread, 
27.9 X II. 4 cm (11 X 4X inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.66. 

no. Casement material, 1950. 
Cotton or synthetic and metal foil, 
27.9 X 17. 1 cm (11 X 6 X inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.80. 







86 





111. Textile sample, ca. 1951. 
Linen and metallic thread, 
25.4 X 17.8 cm (10 X 7 inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York. Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.73. 

112. Textile sample, ca. 1951. 
Linen and metallic thread, 
27.9 X 15.9 cm (11 X 6X inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.79. 



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r- 




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'>-^: 

;'j'\ 
XM 









113. Textile sample, ca. 1933. Linen, 
22.8 X 20.3 cm (9x8 inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.70. 

114. Textile sample, probably after 
1933. Linen, 24.1 X 20.3 cm 

(9X X 8 inches). The Museum 
of Modern Art, New York, 
Gift of Josef Albers 450.70.71. 



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115. Textile sample, probably after 
1933. Silk, 17.7 X 26.6 cm 

(7 X loX inches). The Museum 
of Modern Art, New York, 
Gift of Josef Albers 450.70.63. 

116. Wall-covering material, 

ca. 1950. Jute and metallic thread, 
29.2 X 12.7 cm (iiX X 5 inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.65. 



^^^sStftrS-kJiSiS: 



i vf vii>< ^;v'*^''^!.4>.^j'-V*^ 








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117. Wall-covering material, 

ca. 1950. Jute and metallic thread, 
29.2 X 12.1 cm {n'Ax ^'4 inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.64. 

118. Evening-coat material, 1946. 
Linen, cotton, and Lurex, 

33 X 29.8 cm (13 X II K inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of the designer 
434-5I- 



,l!a.^raa i.__; i^^-aa r-TiS fVrsa **^J-^C ^__, '■J-'^^^^'i' "^ 7\ 

; ^ — «. ^'TV'^--'^ j*-'^ * ' - '■'^^ :r^'' "'f 'l.?J( 5^^P* Pv.i^ ~*-* 






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14i~« i%IC ' ■ ~ ~ -■ -' 'h^ '^^ if^rr.i^ '- 



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119- Textile sample, ca. 1948. 
Harnessmaker's thread, 

18 X 8 cm {7 'Ax yA inches). 
The Metropohtan Museum ot An, 
New York, Clitt ot Aiini Albcrs 
I970.75-77- 

120. Fextile sample, ca. 1948. 
Harnessmaker's thread, 
10.3 X 7.6 cm (4/1. X 3 inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.100. 




121. Textile sample, ca. 1948. 
Harnessmaker's thread, 

21.6 X 8.3 cm (8 >^ X 3 ;< inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, (lih of Josef Albers 
450.70.101. 

122. Fextile sample, ca. 1948. 
Harnessmaker's thread, 

15.9 X S.i cm {6Ax }A inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.99. 






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.1 .xi-y-f-^y ff- 



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89 



123- Textile sample, probably after 
1933. Cotton and metallic thread, 
16.5 X 19 cm (6X X 7X inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of Josef Albers 
450.70.81. 




^Tf'^f^^- .i-yy^'1^ 



1 



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124. Textile sample, date unknown. 

Cotton and linen, 16 X 24 cm 

(6 /(. X 9 7,6 inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

New York, Gift of Anni Albers 

1970.75.42. 



•\«»5v.jfc»^ ,v^».. j^,^ A_ fil..- .,< _^ <•»■•. j«io«». rt«?a» «{!»^ ilifi*! >»—■ 
aj flr'-' ►OHT fjtr- um£< ,JU^ -^k^ |iTi>" .i»i« t,a«i< Mki^, ,x» filk— •!^». i— " 

^i^^o dtfe>^ »>> aC> bi^ £^^iik^ ^ .£rti£r^[^;i&r^ 

•«.;»SiS' «9»*' >^to: fcsr^ wsh ida-' .js" ii^v ,««?■- ^.^^ ^**> ,a»*..^ -^-. 





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dfc- !*=- *^ a^. «^44^. 



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125. Upholstery material, 1929. 

Cotton and rayon, 11. 4 X 19.7 cm 

U'Ax 7 finches). 

The Museum of Modern Art, 

New York, Gift of the designer 

419.51. 




S^Si^ii 



90 




126. Knitted casement material, 
ca. i960. Linen, 

53 X 39 cni (20 X X 15 X inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Ciih ot Anni Albers 
1970.75.22. 

127. Wall-covering material, 1929. 
Designed for the auditorium 

of the Allgemeinen Deutschen 
Gewerkschaftsbundesschule, 
Bernau, Germany. Cotton and 
cellophane, 22.9 X 12.7 cm 
(9X5 inches). 

The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of the designer 
433-5I- 



' -\^ "",*' 



•.•rrTr:* 



mm 





128. Knitted casement material, 
ca. i960. 

Cotton and metallic thread, 
57 X 35.5 cm (22%. X 14 inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gift of Anni Albers 
1970.75.21. 

129. Textile sample, date unknown. 
Cotton and linen, 

28 X 21 cm (11 X 8X inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gift of Anni Albers 
1970.75.62. 



> ,1 , K «.» vV'.V.V.ht .1.1 1'liV'Ni 



).i .J. I. i.«,V,j.*K«.'«.V.»',V»"''.'i 



liJWfl 



91 



130. Textile sample, 1950. 
Cotton and jute, 
32.5 X 48 cm (12 HxiS'A inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gift of Anni Albers 
1970.75. 31a. 




131. Textile sample, 1950. 

Cotton and linen, 

67.3 X 34 cm il6'/iX 13 % inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

New York, Gift of Anni Albers 

I970.75-34- 




92 



I 






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132. Textile sample, 1950. 

Cotton and linen, 

33 X 34 cm (13 X 13 X inches). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

New York, Gift of Anni Albers 

1970.75.32. 



93 



Constructing Textiles 



Anni Albers Retrospection, though suspected of being the preoccupation of conservators, 

can also serve as an active agent. As an antidote for an elated sense of 
progress that seizes us from time to time, it shows our achievements in 
proper proportion and makes it possible to observe where we have 
advanced, where not, and where, perhaps, we have even retrogressed. 
It thus can suggest new areas for experimentation. 

When we examine recent progress in cloth-making, we come to 
the curious realization that the momentous development we find is limited 
to a closely defined area . . . the creation of new fibres and finishes. While 
the process of weaving has remained virtually unchanged for uncounted 
centuries, textile chemistry has brought about far-reaching changes, greater 
changes perhaps than even those brought about through the fast advance 
in the mechanics of textile production during the last century. We find 
the core of textile work, the technique of weaving, hardly touched by our 
modern age, while swift progress in the wider area has acutely affected the 
quality as much as the quantity of our fabrics. In fact, while a development 
around the center has taken place, methods of weaving have not only 
been neglected, but some have even been forgotten in the course of time. 

It is easy to visualize how intrigued, as much as mystified, a weaver 
of ancient Peru would be in looking over the textiles of our day. Having 
been exposed to the greatest culture in the history of textiles and having 
been himself a contributor to it, he can be considered a fair judge of our 
achievements. He would marvel, we can imagine, at the speed of mass 
production, at the uniformity of threads, the accuracy of the weaving and 
the low price. He would enjoy the new yarns used . . . rayon, nylon, aralac, 
dacron, orlon, dynel, and Fibreglas, to name some of the most important 
ones. He would admire the materials that are glazed or water-repellant, 
crease-resistant, permanent pleated, or flame-retarding, mothproof or 
shrinkage-controlled and those made fluorescent ... all results of our new 
finishes. Even our traditionally used fabrics take on new properties when 
treated with them. He would learn with amazement of the physical as 
well as of the chemical methods of treating fabrics, which give them their 
tensile strength or their reaction to alkalis or acids, etc. Though our 
Peruvian critic is accustomed to a large scale of colors, he may be surprised 
to see new nuances and often a brilliance hitherto unknown to him, as 
well as a quantitative use of color surpassing anything he had imagined. 

The wonder of this new world of textiles may make our ancient 
expert feel very humble and may even induce him to consider changing 
his craft and taking up chemistry or mechanical engineering. These are 
the two major influences in this great development, the one affecting the 



94 



quality of the working material, and the other the technique of production. 
But strangely enough, he may Hnd that neither one would serve him in 
his specific interest: the intricate interlocking of two sets of threads at right 
angles — weaving. 

Concentrating his attention now on this particular phase of textile 
work, he would have a good chance of regaining his self-confidence. 
A strange monotony would strike him and puzzle him, we imagine, as he 
looked at millions of yards of fabric woven in the simplest technique. In 
most cases, he would recognize at one glance the principle of construction, 
and he would even find most oi the more complex weaves familiar to 
him. In his search for inventiveness in weaving techniques, he would find 
few, if any, examples to fascinate him. He himself would feel that he had 
many suggestions to offer. 

An impartial critic of our present civilization would attribute this 
barrenness in today's weaving to a number of factors. He would point out 
that an age of machines, substituting more and more mechanisms for 
handwork, limits in the same measure the versatility of work. He would 
explain that the process of forming has been disturbed by divorcing the 
planning from the making, since a product today is in the hands of many, 
no longer in the hands of one. Each member of the production line adds 
mechanically his share to its formation according to a plan beyond his 
control. Thus the spontaneous shaping of a material has been lost, and the 
blueprint has taken over. A design on paper, however, cannot take into 
account the fine surprises of a material and make imaginative use of them. 
Our critic would point out that this age promotes quantitative standards 
of value. Durability of materials, consequently, no longer constitutes a 
value per se and elaborate workmanship is no longer an immediate source 
of pleasure. Our critic would show that a division between art and craft, 
or between fine art and manufacture, has taken place under mechanical 
forms of production; the one carrying almost entirely spiritual and 
emotional values, the other predominantly practical ones. It is therefore 
logical that the new development should clarify the role of usefulness in 
the making of useful objects, paralleling the development of art, which 
in its process of clarification has divested itself of a literary by-content and 
has become abstract. 

Though the weight of attention is now given to practical forms 
purged of elements belonging to other modes of thought, aesthetic qualities 
nevertheless are present naturally and inconspicuously. Avoiding decorative 
additions, our fabrics today are often beautiful, so we believe, through the 
clear use of the raw material, bringing out its inherent qualities. Since even 



95 



solid colors might be seen as an aesthetic appendage, hiding the character- 
istics of a material, we often prefer fabrics in natural, undyed tones. 

Our new synthetic fibres, derived from such different sources as 
coal, casein, soybeans, seaweed or lime have multiplied many times the 
number of our traditionally used fibres. Our materials therefore, even 
when woven in the simplest techniques, are widely varied in quality, and 
the number of variations are still increased through the effects of the new 
finishes. Yards and yards of plain and useful material, therefore, do not 
bore us. Rather they give us a unique satisfaction. To a member of an 
earlier civilization, such as our Peruvian, these materials would be lacking 
in those qualities that would make them meaningful to him or beautiful. 

Though we have succeeded in achieving a great variety of fabrics 
without much variation of weaving technique, the vast field of weaving 
itself is open today for experimentation. At present, our industry has no 
laboratories for such work. (Today, 1959, the situation is changing.) The 
test tube and the slide rule have, so far, taken good care of our progress. 
Nevertheless, the art of building a fabric out of threads is still a primary 
concern to some weavers, and thus experimenting has continued. Though 
not in general admitted to the officialdom of industrial production, 
some hand-weavers have been trying to draw attention to weaving itself 
as an integral part of textile work. 

At their looms, free from the dictates of a blueprint, these weavers 
are bringing back the qualities that result from an immediate relation 
of the working material and the work process. Their fresh and discerning 
attempts to use surface qualities of weaves are resulting in a new school 
of textile design. It is largely due to their work that textures are again 
becoming an element of interest. Texture effects belong to the very structure 
of the material and are not superimposed decorative patterns, which 
at present have lost our love. Surface treatment of weaving, however, can 
become as much an ornamental addition as any pattern by an overuse 
of the qualities that are organically part of the fabric structure. 

Though it is through the stimulating influence of hand-weaving 
that the industry is becoming aware of some new textile possibilities, not 
all hand-weaving today has contributed to it. To have positive results, a 
work that leads away from the general trend of a period has to overcome 
certain perplexities. There is a danger of isolationism . . . hand-weavers 
withdrawing from contemporary problems and burying themselves in 
weaving recipe books of the past; there is a resentment of an industrial pre- 
sent, which due to a superior technique of manufacture, by-passes them; 



96 



there is a romantic ovcrestimation of handwork in contrast to machine 
work and a beHet in artificial preservation of a market that is no longer of 
vital importance. 

Crafts have a place today beyond that of a backwoods subsidy 
or as a therapeutic means. Any craft is potentially arc, and as such not 
under discussion here. C]rafts become problematic when they are hybrids 
of art and usefulness (once a natural union), not quite reaching the 
level of art and not quite that of clearly defined usefulness. An example 
is our present day ash tray art . . . trash. 

Modern industry is the new form of the old crafts, and both 
industr)' and the crafts should remember their genealogical relation. Instead 
of a feud, they should have a family reunion. Since the craft of weaving 
is making, in an unauthorized manner, its contribution to the new develop- 
ment and is beginning to draw attention to itself, we can look forward 
to the time when it will be accepted as a vital part of the industrial process. 

The influence that hand-weaving has had thus far has been mainlv 
in the treatment of the appearance, the epidermis, of fabrics. The engi- 
neering work of fabric construction, which affects the fundamental 
characteristics of a material, has barely been considered. It is probably 
again the task of hand-weavers to work in this direction. For just as silk, a 
soft material by nature, can become stiff in the form of taffeta, through 
a certain thread construction, and linen, a comparatively stiff material, can 
be made soft in another, so an endless number of constructional effects can 
produce new fabrics. The increasing number of new fibres incorporating 
new qualities creates a special challenge to try the effects of construction on 
them. Just as chemical treatment has produced fluorescence, so structural 
treatment can produce, for example, sound-absorption. Our ancient 
Peruvian colleague might lose his puzzled expression, seeing us thus set for 
adventures with threads, adventures that we suspect had been his passion. 

Industry should take time off for these experiments in textile 
construction and, as the easiest practicable solution, incorporate hand- 
weavers as laboratory workers in its scheme. By including the weaver's 
imaginative and constructive inventiveness, as well as his land-loom 
with its wide operational scope, progress in textile work may grow from 
progress in part to a really balanced progress. 

This essay originally appeared in "Constructing Textiles" Design 47:8 (April 4, 1946) and 
was reprinted in Alvin Lustig, ed. Visual Communication (New York, 1945) and in Anni 
Albers: On Designing (\^es\cy3r\ I'niversiiy Press: Middlelown, C'onnccticiit, 19^1), pp. 12-16. 



97 






133- Drawing for a Rug II, 1959. 
Ink and pencil on paper, 
13. 1 X 43.6 cm (5 '/<. X 17 Xf, inches). 
The Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation, Bethany AA DR 013. 



134. Drawing for a Rug II, 1959. 
Gouache on paper, 
13. 1 X 43.6 cm (sXi, X i-jYu, inches). 
The Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation, Bethany AA DR 015. 



135. Drawitig for a Rug II, 1959. 
Gouache on paper, 
13. 1 X 43.6 cm (5X<, X 17X1, inches). 
The Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation, Bethany AA DR 016. 



98 




136. Study for Ctvuiiio ReiiL 

ca. 1967. Gouache on blueprint 

paper, 29.7 X 27.6 cm 

(11%. X loX inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers 

Foundation, Bethany AA DR 021. 



99 




137- Study for A, 1968. 

Gouache on graph paper, 

27.9 X 26 cm (11 X ioYm, inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany AA DR 024. 



100 




,.m., \j:a&, ■"■..<i^., ^^ 

y-h tK rk :;k, - ■ •^■' ^ 













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138. Study for B, 1968. 

Gouache on graph paper, 

31 X 23.8 cm (12 /i. X gX inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bcthanv AA DR 025.1 



lOI 



/ r^r A 2 2 ^ ^ ^ 

j^ A ^ ^ \. y '^ 

_ A^ A\ A r A A _ 



139. DR XV B, 1974. Ink on paper, 
38.4 X 58.9 cm (15 X X 22 X inches). 
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 
Bethany AA DR 053. 



OR 'y-TV 



140. DRXIV, i^j^. Ink on paper, 
38.4 X 58.9 cm (15)4 X ^^y» inches). 
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 
Bethany AA DR 051. 



102 




141. Study for Triangulated Intaglio V, 
1976. Gouache on paper, 
31. 1 X 28.4 cm (12 y„. X II M'6 inches). 
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 
Bethany AA DR 070. 



103 




142. Line Iin'olvcmoit lU 1964. 

Lithograph, 50.5 x 37.5cm 

{\C)V* X 14%, inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany AA PR 005/II. 



104 




I 





143. Line Involvement UL 1964. 

Lithograph, 37.5 x 50.5 cm 

(i4'M'6 X 19/8 inches). 

The Josef and Anni Alhcrs Foundation, 

Bethany AA PR 005/III. 



105 




144- Line Involvement IV, 1964. 

Lithograph, 50.5 x 37.5 cm 

(19 Xx 14 '/t inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany AA PR 005/IV. 



106 




145- I-ine Involvement K 1964. 

Lithograph, 37.5 x 50.5 cm 

(14 ')4 X 19X inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany AA PR 005/V. 



107 




146. Li)H' hivolvemeyit VI, 1964. 

Lithograph, 50.5 X 37.5 cm 

(19 7s X 14% inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany AA PR oos/VI. 



108 




147- Line Involvement VII, 1964. 

Lithograph, 50.5 X 37.5 cm 

(19 /« X 14 'X*. inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany AA PR 005/VlI. 



109 




148. Yellow Meander. Screenprint, 
71. 1 X 61 cm (28 X 24 inches). 
The Josef and Anni AJbers Foundation, 
Bethany AA PR 016. 



no 




149- PO II, 1973. Screenprint and photo-offset, 
72.9 X 55.9 cm (28 %■ X 22 inches). 
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 
Bethany AA PR 034. 



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150. Anni Albers and Alex Reed, 
Neck piece, ca. 1940. 
Aluminum strainer, paper clips, 
and chain; pendant: 
10.8 X 8 cm (4 /{ X 3 X inches). 
Collection of Donna Schneier. 



112 




151. Anni Albers and Alex Rccd, 
Neck piece, ca. 1940. 
Washers and grosgrain ribbon. 
109.2 cm (43 inches) long. 
Collection of Mrs. Barbara Drcier. 



113 



152. Anni Albers and Alex Reed, 
Neck piece, 1988 reconstruction 
of a ca. 1940 original. 
Corks, bobby pins, and thread, 
78.7 cm (31 inches) long. 
Collection of Mary Emma Harris. 




153. Anni Albers and Alex Reed, 
Neck piece, ca. 1940. 

Brass grommets and cotton cord, 
83.8 cm (33 inches) long. 
Collection of Mrs. Barbara Dreier. 

154. Anni Albers and Alex Reed, 
Neck piece, ca. 1940. 

Brass grommets and chamois, 
104. 1 cm (41 inches) long. 
Collection of Mrs. Barbara Dreier. 





114 




155- Anni Albcrs and Alex Reed, 
Neck piece, 1988 reconstruction 
of a ca. 1940 original. 
Eye hooks, pearl beads, and thread, 
83.8 cm (33 inches) long. 
Collection of Mary Emma Harris. 



"5 




rjjw 





156. Free-hanging room divider, 
ca. 1948. Walnut lath, dowels, and 
waxed-cotton harnessmaker's thread, 
326.4 X 108 cm (128 X X 42X inches). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
New York, Gift of Anni Albers 
I970.75-78- 





•e^-- 








157. Free-hanging room divider, 

ca. 1949. Jute, 

144.8 X 86.4 cm (57 X 34 inches). 

The Museum of Modern Art, 

New York, Gift of the designer 

411.60. 



116 




I'^H. Free-hanging room divider, 
1949. Cellophane and cord, 
238.7 X 82.5 cm (94 X 32% inches) 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, Gift of the designer 
409.60. 




"7 



Anni Albers: Devotion to Material 



Kelly Feeney By all accounts, Anni Albers had never visited a synagogue before the mid- 

1950s, when the ark panels she designed for Temple Emanu-El in Dallas 
(figs. 160-61) were installed. Born to a family of assimilated Berlin Jews, 
Albers was baptized and confirmed in the Protestant church. This complex 
religious identity was a changeable feature of Albers's personality. Sometimes 
she was explicit about her background, particularly if she anticipated 
an affront. But on occasions she was quick to remind others that she was 
not Jewish (except, as she put it, "in the Hitler sense"), as in 1959, when 
the graphic designer Elaine Lustig Cohen asked Albers to weave a matzoh 
cover for her family's Passover seder. "You know I'm not Jewish," Albers 
replied, yet proceeded to carry out the assignment. One wonders if 
Albers sensed any irony in the Dallas commission, or in those she later 
received for other synagogue decorations and for a Holocaust memorial." 

In 1922 Albers left behind the upholstered comfort of her family's 
apartment in Berlin to attend the Bauhaus. Eleven years later, after the 
closing of the Bauhaus, she and her husband, Josef, left the uncertainties 
of Germany to teach at another experimental school. Black Mountain 
College, in the United States. During this tumultuous time Albers devoted 
herself to her art, as well as to teaching and writing about art. Her essays 
(for example, the 1939 text "Art — A Constant") often prescribe a devotional 
commitment. Clearly Modernism was Albers's religion, and her fervor 
for it overshadowed the complex relationship she had to Judaism. 

In the mid-1950s the building committee of Temple Emanu-El 
hired the sculptor Gyorgy Kepes to oversee the interior decoration 
of its new synagogue, which had been designed by Howard Meyer and 
Max Sandfield. Kepes, who designed the sanctuary's pendant light fixtures 
and stained-glass windows himself selected Albers for the design and 
fabrication of the ark covering. 

Albers collaborated with Kepes on a fabric pattern that echoed 
not only his blue, green, and amber geometric window design, but the 
sparkling adobe-brick pattern of the sanctuary's main wall as well. Although 
Kepes had originally envisioned conventional ark curtains that could 
be drawn back to reveal the Torahs, Albers prevailed upon him to let her 
mount the material on sliding wooden panels. Ihis solution, which 
Kepes accepted, typifies Albers's genius: fewer yards of the expensive custom 
fabric had to be spun, woven, and dyed, and, with the money saved, 
she was able also to design and produce a silvery material to line the back 
of the tabernacle. 

The eight twenty-foot-high ark panels appear at first to be covered 
in a diverse mosaic of gold, green, and blue Lurex blocks. Albers, who 



118 




159- Study for Temple Emanu-El ark panels, 
1957. Collage of colored paper, foil, textile 
sample, and typewritten labels on paper, 
43.1 X 36.2 cm (17 X 14 /:■ inches). 
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 
Bethany AA DR 095. 



119 



was fluent in the language of geometry, achieved this effect by setting out 
an underlying modular structure in her fabric design; even though each 
panel bears the same pattern, the fabric is mounted at different points in 
the repeat or, on the center panels, simply turned upside down. This way, 
the spare roll of fabric that Albers supplied to the temple could be used 
to replace any one of the eight panels if damage were ever to occur. 

Alberss rigorous aesthetic and practical economy transformed 
the synagogue's ark covering into a splendid architectural element. The 
panels are such a focal point in the sanctuary that the temple's building 
committee initially objected to them, even though they had approved 
the design several months earlier. In November 1956 the committee asked 
Kepes if Albers could produce a fabric pattern with "softened transitions" — 
to replace the fabric she had just made — in time for the synagogue's 
January dedication." Albers informed Kepes that it would be impossible 
to meet that deadline, so the committee was forced to accept the panels 
as they were. But no one complained after the February 1957 issue of 
Life magazine came out, with the vast, glowing sanctuary reproduced in 
glorious color.' 

Four years later the Congregation B'nai Israel of Woonsocket, 
Rhode Island, invited Albers to create an ark covering for their new temple, 
a baroque Modern building by Samuel Glaser. Albers responded with 
a work that is entirely different from the sleek, machine-woven piece she 
had made in Dallas, weaving six textured tapestries on a loom in her 
studio (fig. 164). As in Dallas, she mounted the textiles on wooden panels 
designed to slide apart during services. Measured amounts of gold Lurex 
in the tapestries lend luster to the other, much quieter, materials — cotton 
and jute — and make the textiles appear from a distance to be woven 
entirely of gold. On closer inspection the black and white lines of floating 
weft — which Albers referred to as "thread hieroglyphs" — emerge out 
of the general luminosity.^ The B'nai Israel panels, which dominate the 
temple's sanctuary with a shimmering radiance, are somewhat calligraphic, 
symbolic of the sacred scriptures they protect and adorn. 

In an unpublished statement about this commission, Albers wrote 
that an earlier weaving, which she described as "linear in design, vaguely 
suggesting written ciphers," was her point of departure.' (The earlier work 
is presumably ^/rtc^-W/^/r^-G'o/^/ [1950, fig. 42].) This reference to "ciphers" 
relates to an ongoing theme in Albers's work: the implicit relationship 
between language and weaving. Albers's preoccupation with this idea grew 
out of a lifelong admiration for the weavings produced in pre-Conquest 
Peru, a culture that left behind extraordinary textiles but no written 
language. Albers believed that the "expressive directness" of the Andean 
weavers was possible precisely because they did not communicate through 
writing." But Albers was also interested in the variety of visual forms 
that language can take. Among her papers (now held at the Josef and 
Anni Albers Foundation) are magazine clippings from the 1960s of various 
scripts, including Japanese calligraphy, musical notation, cuneiform, and 
Arabic, among others. She enjoyed the graphic qualities of these written 
languages and the mystery of their abstraction. 

In the cipherlike design of the Woonsocket commission, Albers's 
interest in the written form intersected compellingly with a basic tenet 
of Judaism — the biblical injunction against iconography in favor of 
the study of Hebrew texts. The same is true of her subsequent commission. 
Six Prayers, for the Jewish Museum in New York (fig. 60). The Jewish 



120 




i6o and 161. Ark panels, 
Temple l-.inanu-lX Dallas, 1956 
(open and closed). 



IZI 



Museum had begun in 1964 to acquire art memorializing the Jews who 
died in the Holocaust, after the philanthropist Vera List (the sister of 
Samuel Glaser) had established a special fund for this purpose. In 1965 
Sam Hunter, the director-elect of the museum, wrote to Albers, inviting 
her to execute a commemorative tapestry. He stated that commissions 
were not being granted on the basis of religious faith or ethnic origin, 
and that the museum "placed no restrictions of any kind on the artistic 
character of the commissioned memorial, or upon its authorship."" 

Albers worked for several months on the piece, gradually developing 
its format by weaving five full-scale studies." In the spring of 1966, after 
she had submitted the finished tapestries and had received enthusiastic 
approval from the director. Hunter then hesitated to accept them. At the 
last minute he and List had noticed similarities between the work and 
her ark covering in Woonsocket. Hunter wrote to her, expressing his reser- 
vations: "It was our hope, of course, to have something quite unique as 
a memorial for the six million, and the existence of a work so similar 
would detract in my opinion from the uniqueness of this commission."' 
Albers responded to Hunter three days later.'" In her letter she moderated 
what must have been a keen sense of disappointment, lor by then she 
was sixty-seven years old and near the end of her weaving career, and this 
commission was clearly of enormous importance to her. She welcomed 
the comparison of Six Prayers to the earlier synagogue work but pointed 
out significant differences. In both works she had used six panels; but 
in Woonsocket she had set them close together to read as a unified whole, 
while in Six Prayers she had set them apart from one another, like stelae 
representing the six million dead. She also pointed out that the synagogue 
panels were a ceremonial, festive gold, in contrast to the monochromatic 
gray and silver of Six Prayers. She emphasized technical differences as 
well: for the ark panels, which she had woven in a matter of weeks, she 
had used a warp of loosely set cotton, while for Six Prayers, which she 
worked on over a period of several months, she had used a durable linen 
for both the closer-set warp and for most of the weft. 

In the end, the museum overcame its reluctance and accepted 
Six Prayers. In a press release announcing the work's inaugural presentation, 
Albers wrote that the piece was conceived to be intimate rather than 
monumental." Conducive to meditation, it has a palpable silence, the 
effect of Albers's characteristic poise and restraint. Yet the panels not only 
elicit prayer; they are a prayer, evoking loss and sorrow through their woven 
strands. Like the Peruvian textiles that Albers so admired. Six Prayers 
communicates outside any recognizable language. Its "thread-hieroglyphs," 
lit by silver, possess a subtle intensity; tugging at us, they slowly reveal 
their secrets. 



122 




i62. Ark panels, 1962. 
Cotton, jute, and Lurex; 
six panels, 162.6 X 213.4 cm 
(64 X 84 inches) overall. 
Temple B'nai Israel, 
Woonsocket, Rhode Island. 



Notes 



1. Onl)- the most signiticant ot these 
commi.s.si()ns are discussed here. Apart from 
her commissions tor lemple Emanu-E! 

in Dallas, Temple B'nai Israel in 
Woonsocket, and the Jewish Museum in 
New York, Albers also created ark-curtain 
material for the Marcel Breuer-designed 
Scarsdale Reform Temple, Scarsdalc, 
New York, in 1958, and a set of ark panels 
tor the Congregation Hartzion Agudath 
Achim, Silver Springs, Maryland, in 1967. 
(The latter is now in the collection of 
the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.) 

2. Howard Meyer and Max Sandfield, 
memorandum to the I'emple Emanu-El 
Building Committee, Nov. 12, 1956, 
Temple Emanu-El, Dallas. 

3. "Lotr\' Shrine: Dallas Congregation 
Dedicates Synagogue," Life, Feb. 25, 1957, 
p. 6z. 

4. Albers used the phrase ■'thread- 
hieroglyphs" in a letter to the Jewish 
Museum, March 26, 1966, The Josef and 
Anni Albers Foundation archives. 

5. Anni Albers, unpublished manuscript, 
June 1962, The Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation archives. 

6. Anni Albers, On Weaving (Middlctown, 
Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1965), 
p. 68. The titles of many of AJbers's works 
refer explicit^ to written language, such 



as Ancient Writing (1936), Pictographic 
(1953), Memo {1958), Open Letter (1958), 
Jotting (1959), Haiku (1961), Code (1962), 
Scroll (1962), Epitaph (1968), and Letter 
(1980). For more on the relationship 
between language and AJbers's weavings, 
sec Virginia Gardner Troy's "Thread as 
Text: The Woven Work of Anni Albers" 
in this publication. 

7. .Sam Hunter, letter to .-Xnni .Albers, 
June 25, 1965, The Joset and .Anni .-Mbers 
Foundation archives. 

8. 1 hrcc ot the five studies are in museum 
collections: Bauhaus-.'\rchiv, Berlin; .Art 
Institute ot Chicago; and Weatherspoon 
Gallery, University of North Carolina, 
Greensboro. Another is in a private 
collection in Pittsburgh. The fifth has not 
been located. 

9. Sam Hunter, letter to .Anni .Albers, 
March 23, 1966, The Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation archives. Hunter had expressed 
enthusiasm in an earlier letter, dated Feb. 18, 
1966, also in the Jo,sef and .Anni .Albers 
Foundation archives. 

10. Anni Albers, letter to Sam Hunter, 
March 26, 1966, The Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation archives. 

11. Press release. The Jewish Museum, 
New York, Jan. 1967, The Josef and Anni 
Albers Foundation archives. 



123 



The Last Bauhausler 



Nicholas Fox Weber Grasp the simple, embrace the primitive. 

Diminish yourself, bridle your passions. 



— Lao Tzii ' 

I. 

When Anni Albers asked me if it would be possible to make fine-art prints 
at my family's commercial offset shop, she became a little girl eager to 
embark on a marvelous adventure. The eyes of this generally dour 
septuagenarian lit up with expectation. As when she had, at age twenty-two, 
embarked for the Bauhaus half a century earlier, she was entering her 
favorite realm: that of uncharted territory. 

This austere woman, dressed in her inevitable whites and pale 
beiges, her graying hair sensibly cut, her only makeup a hint of lipstick and 
maybe some powder, sparkled like an eight-year-old in a party dress. Alice, 
perhaps: an unbridled enthusiast about to enter the magical kingdom. 

It had not occurred to me that my family's printing company 
would offer anything to either of the artistic AJberses. Fox Press, some forty- 
five minutes from their house, mostly churned-out booklets and brochures 
for insurance and manufacturing companies; it was known for high- 
quality color-process printing, not for the sort of work that bears an artist's 
signature on each sheet in the tradition of limited-edition lithographs, 
etchings, and screenprints. 

But Anni made her proposal with zeal. This great figure of 
Modernism — who would, by the end of her life, be the last surviving 
teacher of the Bauhaus — suggested it with the same eagerness and openness 
with which she entered the vast domain of her local Sears Roebuck (ten 
minutes from her house) and embarked on a course of what, with her 
lilting Berlin cadences, she enthusiastically called "tah-reasure hunting." 
At Sears she would extol the merits of plastic containers and polyester 
blouses, declaring that "all this emphasis on handmade ' was nonsense, 
that machine processes were a wonderful thing, and that synthetics were 
among the marvels of our century. 

I told Anni a bit about the technology of photo-offset. I gave a 
simple description that touched on the process in the most fundamental 
way — trying as best I could to follow Anni's patient and generous lead 
when, a few months earlier, she had led me to understand weaving by 
taking a Lord & Taylor box top and stretching lines of string from one end 
to the other and then inserting popsicle sticks at right angles to the string, 
with the sticks placed alternately above and below the taut fiber, in 
order to create a bare-bones loom that demonstrated warp and weft. She 
had told me then that she was delighted that someone so interested in her 
work — I was hoping, I had said, to write a book about it — knew nothing 



124 




163. Anni Albcrs, Milan, July 1983. 



125 



about textile technique, as she quite loathed "all that craft stuff" and wanted 
her work to be thought of as art first. I did not yet recognize the perverse 
aspects of her personality, but her wish to swim against the tide intrigued 
me, and since I thought Anni's "pictorial weavings" to have all the qualities 
of pure and great abstract art — to belong next to the paintings of her 
Bauhaus confreres Paul Klee and Vasily Kandinsky — and since I, too, had 
the arrogance to link most weaving with macrame and needlepoint and 
the like, I was amused and willing to follow her route. 

When we began to discuss the possibility of her working with 
photo-offset, Anni proved to be a quick study. She decided that she would 
utilize the medium to make a print of two horizontal rectangular forms 
stacked one on top of the other. Each of the rectangles would contain 
a triangulated pattern, in keeping with the artist's recent geometric experi- 
mentations, a design full of diversion and ins and outs, but deliberately 
lacking in internal symmetry or repetition. At the Bauhaus, Anni had 
been deeply moved by Wilhelm Worringer's pivotal book Abstraction and 
Empathy; she embraced Worringer's idea of abstraction providing the 
opportunity to create "visual resting places" removed from the often painful 
realities of the natural world. She was interested in art that was timeless 
and universal rather than art with specific links to a known locale or moment 
in history — or to the maker's personal experience. This pure realm of art 
could provide some of the harmony that life itself sometimes lacked. To 
keep the viewer engaged, the new creation, like all of Anni's compositions, 
had to eschew easy resolution; like Josef, Anni imbued abstraction with a 
certain tension, a perpetual in/out motion, an ongoing play between image 
and ground. The artist's own persona was to fade in deference to the 
sacred realm of art and the comforts as well as the realities of the technical. 
Anni had no wish to reveal private emotions or the sometimes troubling 
fluctuations of her own mind and heart; she preferred, instead, to focus 
on the purely aesthetic and practical issues of printmaking, just as she had 
for many years reveled in the construction of textiles. It is no wonder 
that Lao Tzii's words were so beloved by Anni, who kept a volume of his 
philosophy in perpetual reach at her bedside. 

Photo-offset, she determined, would enable her to reproduce her 
own deliberately irregular pencil strokes, and simultaneously to obtain 
the crystalline edges and reversals allowed by machine technology. The 
photographic reproduction of her gray markings had never been possible 
in the print mediums with which she had previously worked — lithography, 
etching, and screenprinting. It enabled her to suggest mysterious, and 
musical, communication of the sort that fascinated her in hieroglyphics 
and other ancient forms of writing. She liked nonspecific language, the 
idea of a voice being heard even if the precise meaning of its intonations 
was indecipherable. In contrast to the gray, a red pattern that had been 
hand-cut on a rubylith — a bright plastic sheet of two layers — in the 
stripping department from an original sketch by Anni was to be printed 
opaquely on the top half of this two-section print, while the pattern was 
to be reversed on the lower half. What was red above was gray below, 
and vice versa, another result of the photo-mechanical process. The solids 
above were pencil strokes below; the pencil above unmodulated red below. 

The irregularity of her pencil strokes — this elusive fuzziness — 
against the crisp purity of machined forms appealed to her. So did the idea 
that, with a flick of the wrist, she could make what was negative in one 
rectangle positive in the other. She was grateful to the technology for having 
opened new visual possibilities — as if it, not she, was the responsible 
party. Now she could achieve the sort of contrast and unpredictability, the 



126 




^^ 








164. Fox I, 1973. Photo-offset, 

38 X 34 cm (14?^ X 13 '/(, inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany. 



127 





MX 





165. Fox II, 1973. Photo-offset, 

38 X 34 cm (14 K X 13 /(, inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany. 



128 



niixtuiv o{ tlic personal and ilic impersonal, the coincidence ot order and 
spontaneity, and hence the playfulness and elements ot surprise intrinsic to 
her work — while being part ot the modern world. 

A year or so later — when I began to write in some detail about Anni's life 
and work — she would tell me, in the confessional tone ot a rebel Com- 
munist letting you know that she had grown up with finger bowls in the 
house, that, like so many abstractionists, she had started out with very 
traditional renditions ot the natural world in her work. (Unfortunately, 
none ot the evidence remains.) The first art teacher ot Annelisc FIcischmann 
(she would shorten her first name when she took josets as her last), when 
she was about ten aiul still being etliicated ni a small groiic) ot children 
with tutors, was a Miss \ iolet — Anni lo\ed the name — for whom she 
painted "some good naturalistic watercolors ot little autumn leaves."' Then, 
when she was fourteen and had enrolled in the Kceiim, her parents hired 
a private art teacher, loni Mayer, who came once a week to the house 
with a nude model tor Anni to draw. In retrospect, the idea ot the figure 
drawing she had done as a young woman made little sense to Anni, but 
at the time it made her "feel very professional," and she was excited by 
the way that the progressive and liberated "Tonuschka" gave her "a first 
look at the worici beyond bourgeois Berlin." At age fitteen, in 1914, Anni 
made as her entry to a lyceum competition tor posters to give to World 
War I orphans "a picture ot short-haireti little girls sitting behind each 
other in a row. Each wore a skirt about three inches short ot her knees and 
was knitting, with a ball of wool in tront ot her." Could Anni have had 
a premonition of her future involvement with threaci? Did she realize that 
with that image she was combining her role ot star pupil with that ot 
bete noir? She got word that the posters were unacceptably immodest, the 
skirts too brief A poster she considered distinctly inferior won first prize, 
while hers was awarded only an honorable mention. Her frustration 
over this — Anni always seemed to take a certain pleasure in having been 
wronged — was still with her over half a century later. 

With her next art teacher, she continued both working figuratively 
and breaking the rules. Now a tull-time art student with the Postimpressionist 
Martin Brandenburg, whom she liked and trom whose strict discipline 
she telt she benefited even it she questioned the specifics ot his training, 
she made representational paintings about halt lite-size. The problems 
began when, "ha\ing seen a beautiful Lucas Cranach Eve painted against 
a black background" — one must imagine the sonorous, soft voice and 
deliberate speaking manner, the subtle but distinct emphasis on the word 
"beautiful," its first syllable stretched warmly — she began, in violation 
of Brandenburg's recommended technique, to put black in her paintings. 
Brandenburg said that if she did not abandon this use of black she 
could not return to his classes. Anni was in tears. Her mother arranged a 
reconciliation, the rebellious student vowing to comply with the teacher's 
dictates, but the work she produced atter that time makes clear how 
much she ultimately delighted in that black. 

When Anni first gave me the sketch for the pattern to be made in solid 
red, I instructed the stripper to simulate her handwork exactlv. Mv 
erroneous assumption was that in the outlines she would want the same 
sort ot personal ettect that the gray pencil strokes had. It took the stripper 
days to cut a rubylith that perfectly resembled her drawing — only to 
have Anni respond by .saying that she hated the handmade appearance. 
She meant her drawinti onl\- as a tiiiide to the design and desired exact. 



129 




i66. Josef Albers at 8 North Forest Circle, 
New Haven, Connecticut, ca. 1968. 



crisp lines and sharply pointed triangles with the points just lightly touching. 
The stripper then developed a grid from which he cut the triangles 
precisely; since the bottom unit was simply the reverse of the top, all he 
had to do was cut one piece. 

Once all the preparatory stages were complete — this process 
had taken many months, during which my regular visits to the Alberses 
had exposed me, with thrilling intimacy, to a more honest and intense 
devotion to art than I had ever thought possible — Anni said that she 
wanted to make a trip to Fox Press. She needed, she felt, to watch the 
actual printing in order to determine the intensity of the gray as it rolled 
off the press and to make sure that the opaque red trapped it exactly, 
containing the pencil without any unwelcome white space around it. 

We agreed that I would pick her up one morning at the modest, 
shingled, raised ranch house where she and Josef lived on a pleasant 
suburban street in the town of Orange, fifteen minutes from the center 
of New Haven. Although she still drove short distances on her own, it was 
better for me to take her on the hour-long journey to Fox Press, which 
was on the north side of Hartford, and return her at the end of the day. 

In those days I drove an MG roadster, which I thought would 
be impossible for Anni to get into. She walked awkwardly, often using a 
cane, and her legs and feet seemed slightly malformed. I did not yet know 
what her precise disability was, but she had terribly thin calves — there 
had been an incorrect rumor at Black Mountain College that she had 
contracted rickets during World War I — and she wore large custom-made 
shoes that were clearly designed to accommodate a structural problem. 
Anni had once referred to having remained seated at Bauhaus parties while 
Josef danced all night, and at another point had mentioned that she had 
broken her hip a few years earlier, but she never identified the actual 
problem. (I would later learn from her brother, Hans Farman, that Anni, 
like her mother, suffered from a genetic syndrome that caused them to 
have an extreme arch in both feet, as a result of which their leg muscles 
could not fully develop. Anni's sister, Lotte, and Hans both feared that their 
children might be similarly afflicted — they were not — and Hans presumed 
that it was one of the reasons that Anni and Josef had never had children 
of their own. Indeed, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, the hereditary 
progressive nerve disorder from which Anni suffered, would probably have 
caused any female children she had to have the same sort of clawed feet, 
nerve deterioration, and wasting of leg muscles as Anni had.' Other people, 
however, said that the reason was that the Alberses' work was their 
children, and that their involvement with their art left: no time or energy 
for family matters.) So for the sake of Anni's comfort I drove my mother's 
Rover sedan, which so fascinated Josef that he came outside to the drive- 
way to study it. 

Josef paced back and forth analyzing the English car. It was similar, 
he said, to their Mercedes, in that, unlike American designs, neither 
of these models wasted trunk space. The importance of this relationship 
of form and function was never minimized. The Alberses had already 
told me on many occasions that they preferred their Polaroid camera and 
portable Sony television to the paintings of the Abstract Expressionists. 
Clean and effective design with a purpose ranked far higher than art 
focused on the revelation of one's private self 

Anni evinced the same pleasure embarking on our outing as she 
had over our collaboration from the start. Clearly she liked the attention, 
the eagerness of a young man to cater to her whims and soak up her views. 
And I was content beyontl belief; after years of studying art history, in 



130 



both Anni and josct 1 had ciKounicicd, as nc\(.T bftoic, people ulio j;cn- 
uincK' h\cd and breathed art as the essence of their h\es. lor the Alberses 
art was the central issue — not on the peripher)' as it was in most institutions 
of American education and in our culture at large. Ihe visual world was 
supreme for each of them individually, and in their marriage. 

In the preceding months Anni and I had established a remarkable 
rapport. Josef and I often had wonderful conversations — about Giotto's 
line as opposed to Duccio's, about German Rococo architecture, about 
the tiaudulence oi most of Americas famous artists — but Anni was the 
more accessible of the two of them, eager to cross the line from discussing 
topics to establishing an intimate personal connection, josef was entirely 
content with his work and sense of self; Anni needed friends. In this arena 
she was as selective as in all of her other choices, but once one had made 
it to the inner sanctum, there was much pleasure in being there, even if 
one had to remain somewhat on guard and on good behavior. Arrogant, 
imperious, demanding, and snobby, this highly intelligent woman, this 
grand duchess of Modern art, could be as gracious and charming, genuinely 
so, as she could be dismissive. It was, of course, Battering to be among 
the few who escaped her opprobrium: I recognized the rarit\' of the position 
and savored it as such. 

In fact, it was Josef who iiiitialK' latched onto the significance of 
my coming from the world of printing. What in m\' mind seemed too 
ordinary and bourgeois and businesslike for people like the Alberses was 
to them laden with rare potential. Ihe occasion was our very first meeting, 
in 1971. I was then a twenty-three-year-old graduate student in art history 
at Yale. My friend Ruth Agoos — who with her husband. Herb, collected 
both Annis and Josef's work, and who had been, to the cool and distant 
extent to which the Alberses jointly permitted personal relationships to 
develop, a friend of theirs for over a decade — had asked me to accompany 
her in calling on them. At that point I was familiar with Josef's work and 
reputation but knew very little about his wife's other than the pieces 
by her I had seen at the Agooses'. It was Josef whom I anticipated meeting. 

I did not quite know what to expect from the great painter and 
color theorist who had now made such a mark on American art — Josef 
had, a year earlier, been the first living artist ever to have a major retrospec- 
tive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York — but I was properly 
nervous and intimidated in advance. I donned my one clean pair of cor- 
duroys, a herringbone jacket, and a tie — I would later discover how right 
I was in having a foreboding that such details counted in a major way 
where I was going — and did my utmost to keep the grease off my pants 
when I had to get underneath the MG to bang the fuel pump with a rock. 
By the time Ruth and I pulled up at the Alberses' house, at 808 Birchwood 
Drive, I was past being Happed — at least the car had finally started — but 
1 could not help being astonished by the blatant ordinariness — in fact, 
the ugliness — of the house, with its shingles the color of Band-Aids and its 
strident concrete foundation completely devoid of planting. In my mind, 
I had expected to arrive at a pavilion by Walter Gropius, or at least some- 
thing sleek and white and edged in chrome, not a satellite from I.evittown. 

But the moment we went up the half-fJight of stairs and, in an 
interior more austere and minimal and spare than anything one would 
ever find in I.evittown, met the Alberses, their presence — it was a mutual 
presence, more than the impression of two .separate beings — filled the 
space completely. Josef was stocky, of medium height, and had a large 
head — his build was almost like Picasso's, but without the musculature — 
while Anni, who was tall for a woman, was thin as a rail. But whatever 



131 




167. Josef All)^.■r^ a( X North I'orcst Circle, 
New Haven, Connecticut, 1968, 
photographed by Henri Carrier-Bresson. 



their builds, they were truly big people; they animated the world around 
them. The nearly empty house, with its few pieces of lean furniture 
and complete absence of personal objects, its walls practically blank save 
for four paintings by Josef and work by two of his students (nothing 
by Anni was in sight), was like a minimal Modern stage set occupied by 
characters of Shakespearean dimensions. 

The redness of Josef's skin seemed accentuated by the snow- 
whiteness of his smooth, straight hair, precisely the sort of color effect he 
would have remarked on in his teaching. Anni, although she would later 
tell me that she was so dark-skinned that she had been able to take lots 
of sun without any problem during their visits to Mexico in the era before 
sunscreens were readily available while the fairer Josef had had to protect 
himself assiduously, made a paler impression — like a figure in a black-and- 
white movie slightly out of focus and infused with light. I regret to say 
that she had something about her that reminded me of Olive Oyl of Popeye 
comic book fame, but if this was less than flattering to her looks, the Olive 
Oyl-like mix of awkwardness and amiability, the apparent receptiveness 
and eager gaze at me as a newcomer, won me over. 

"What do you do, boy^'' Josef asked me in a strident voice only 
seconds after Ruth had introduced us and I had been struck by the strength 
and control with which the rugged octogenarian had shaken my hand. 

"I study art history at Yale, sir," I answered — reduced, as I was, 
to some lower echelon: a student before a senior professor, an apprentice 
before a master, a private before a general. 

"Do you like it, boyV This was not someone who believed in 
pussyfooting. 

I had no idea what his relationship with the university was, and 
I was greatly dependent on the monthly stipends awarded as part of my 
fellowship grant; I thought he might have the power to send me packing 
in an instant. But I have always been one to declare the truth at whatever 
cost, and if he wouldn't mince words, neither would I. 

"No, sir, I . . . really . . . don't. " 

"Why not, boyV 

"Well, sir, I find that I'm losing my passion for looking at art. 
I mean, this past semester I've been taking a course called 'Seurat and the 
Iconography of Entertainment,' and for the past three weeks I've been 
in a library basement studying gas-lighting fixtures in nineteenth-century 
France to understand the details of Le Chahut. When I tried to talk to the 
teacher about what the painting looked like, about the colors and forms, 
or how it was made, he said that that wasn't the subject of the course. Now 
when I go to museums I think so much about all the facts they're looking 
for that I find I can't feel that inexplicable thrill of the art anymore. " 

I noticed that Anni was looking at me with what I deduced was a 
degree of fascination, and with what seemed an approving if quizzical smile. 

"This I like, boy,'' Josef declared, as, to my complete surprise, 
he put his arm around me and patted my back. "Which of those bastards 
in art history don't you like?" 

I answered, and we bandied about the names of a few of the 
professors in the department. Anni now chimed in. They had the usual 
disdain that practicing artists hold for art historians. She referred to 
one well-known professor as being — she grinned like a little kid as she 
used the American idiom — "full of hot air." 

"And what does your father do?" Josef then asked. The question 
puzzled me slightly. I had not expected it — I was past defining myself 
by my parents' professions — and it was only months later that I realized 



132 



to what extent Josef always emphasized his hither's occupation. I.orenz 
Albers had been a hoiisepainter who also did carpentry, electrical work, 
and plumbing; Josef had the deepest admiration h)r the practical skills, 
the emphasis on technical proficiency and knowledge of materials, 
he had learned as a child. "I come from Adam and my father. That's all," 
he would declare resolutely to scholars who pointed to the glass artist 
Johan Thorn-Prikker (with whom Josef had apprenticed before attending 
the Bauhaus) or to \'incent van Cjogh, or, less accurately, to the German 
Expressionists as a source for his early style and sub.secjuent developments. 

Besides, my mother was a painter; I thought perhaps that the 
Alberses might be interested that I grew up in a house with a studio in it, 
that the whiff of oil paint I detected in their living room was the same 
as the one I had known throughout my childhood. 

But I answered the question as asked. "Hes a printer. I mean, 
he owns a printing company." 

"Good," Josef replied, smiling. "Then you know something about 
something. YouVe not just an art historian." I felt at that moment as if 
Anni had been looking at me Hrst with the nervousness, then the relief, 
of a girl whose date has just met her father for the first rime, and who 
has gotten through the first round all right. What I did not yet realize was 
that my answer had afforded her a certain comfort, since her father had 
also owned his own company, and in effect we came from similar back- 
grounds — for which her word of choice would have been "bourgeois." 
Her father was a furniture manufacturer — a line of work similar to printing 
in its combination of business and aesthetic concerns. For Anni, who by 
nature felt isolated, this link between us had meaning. 

From that point forward, Josef talked to me often about the 
graphic arts — he esteemed graphic design as an art form, had worked with 
many interesting printers, and had designed several alphabets — and gave 
me various materials pertaining to the subject. 

Meanwhile, Anni, who had had far less to say in that first 
conversation, had obviously begun to hatch a scheme. While Josef had 
been interested in my printing connection theoretically, she recognized 
some more tangible possibilities in the relationship. She might make 
something at the different sort of printing company my familv owned. 
And in the \oung man who had been brought in that afternoon, she 
might have both a friend and an admirer. She was, I discovered in time, 
deeply in need of both. 

What 1 most remember of the rest of that initial encounter was 
that Anni and Ruth anti 1 went out, with Anni driving her Ghevrolet 
station wagon, to procure lunch, and that I learned that when you see the 
world through the eyes of one of the earliest proponents of the Bauhaus, 
the ma.ss production and efficiency of Kentucky Fried Chicken takes on 
a new dimension, and that when someone of Anni's distinction and ele- 
gance makes a pronouncement like "Josef and I don't like extra kah-rispy," 
it has a magic that such preferences lack when uttered by more ordinary 
souls. I also came to see that day that even the least appealing of fast 
foods takes on a new charm when enunciated in quiet Berlin tempo — 
"Ken-tucky fah-ried " — and served on immaculate white Rosenthal china 
from a spare and lean rolling cart, arranged there by someone whose 
eyes and imerring design sense govern every slight decision. 

It was two years later that 1 was driving Anni to Fox Press. She gave 

to her entrance to the printing plant the same very individual magic, the 

deliberateness and quirky charm, that she lent to most simple actions. 



133 



Proportioned like one of Alberto Giacometti's striding figures and walking 
with the aid of her plain stick, Anni was striking both for the dignity 
of her dark brunette hair and her stately manner. By her own definition, 
she "purposefully avoided an arty look" — a bent she shared with Josef 
who was most often seen in solid-colored, straight-collared shirts and 
khaki or gray wool trousers; the tone set by their clothing was of consider- 
able importance to both the Alberses. For her Fox Press outing, Anni wore 
a simply cut, rather severe khaki skirt that ended just below the knee, 
a silky white crepe blouse, and a pure-white cable-stitch sweater. Not yet 
knowing her well, I assumed that the sweater was expensive, handmade, 
and imported — that someone of Anni Albers's stature would wear nothing 
else — but having become more closely acquainted with her I have come 
to realize that it was probably machine-made, synthetic, and washable — 
and from a discount store. For I now know that she always preferred the 
practical products of mass production to most luxury goods — and regular- 
ly instructed weavers championing the handmade and belittling machine 
work to look at their own shirts. 

Anni's plain, mostly inexpensive clothes acquired a rare elegance 
on her, in part because of the way they fit and hung; her suits from 
Alexander's (a department store noted for its cheap merchandise) might 
have been Chanels. (When asked whom she considered to be the greatest 
artist of the twentieth century, she was inclined to answer "Coco Chanel.") 
Along with the whites and tans that day, Anni had on a brown suede jacket, 
a shimmering brown scarf, and heavy brown suede shoes; the balances 
were of color as well as of texture. 

When we walked into the pressroom, I told Anni that when my 
father had built Fox Press, he had considered buying Standing Lithographer 
by David Smith, a seven-and-a-half-foot-tall figure with a steel type case 
for a chest. I lamented this with the collector's usual woe over the art 
masterpiece almost bought, explaining that the ten thousand dollars 
needed to buy it had ended up being required for a fire door. (The Smith 
had recently sold for one hundred and seventy thousand dollars, a detail 
I considered too vulgar to mention but of which I was keenly aware.) 
Anni was surprisingly unmoved by what I considered a misfortune. 
Without missing a beat, she simply pointed to a large Swiss two-color 
press in front of us and declared, "You see that machine? That, that 
is far more beautiful than anything David Smith ever touched." 

Anni positioned herself carefully on a wooden chair next to 
the thirty-two-inch single-color press where her print was to be run. 
She exuded a sense of importance and rectitude, as well as grace, but 
was mercifully free of the self-consciousness of a grande dame. She was, 
quite simply, an honest worker trying to do her job as best she could. 
There was nothing of an old lady about her; she was neither a "character" 
nor a "person of importance," and her age and gender assumed minor 
roles. What was remarkable was her quiet brilliance, and her humility 
alongside her complete originality. As the pressman adjusted the press, 
she spoke of the wonder of the machine and of the artist's need to respond 
to the capabilities of the equipment. 

Anni was curious about the flexible plate that was being locked 
onto a roller and wanted to know more about how it was made. The 
pressman fetched the platemaker, who suggested that we go into the prep 
department to see how it was created. Observing the chemical processes 
and fit of the halftones, Anni marveled at the accuracy of mechanization. 
As she exulted in the technology, this woman who at the Bauhaus had 
worked alongside Klee and Kandinsky fifty years earlier, somehow made 



134 



this prinrint; pl.iiu in C'oiiiiccticut an outgrowth of B.uih.uis thinking 
and lite. What she c\okcd of that great and pioneering art school was not 
its complicated politics t)r the rivalries that sometimes sullied its atmosphere, 
but rather its crisp thinking and marriage ot creativity and technology. 

While impressively himible in her demeanor, she had a degree 
of politeness that suggested the true ranks of noblesse. Shaking hands 
with the men at the plant, Anni smiled graciousK- and told them that she 
admired what they did. "Craft people," Anni complained to me in an 
aside, suffered from their inability to use machines; they should simply 
look at what they were wearing to understand the value of mechanization. 
It was yet another reiteration of this favorite point. 

Watching the first few prints roll off the press, which was usually 
used to fire off brochures by the thousands, Anni was riveted — as she had 
been while the parts were clamped into place and the rollers inked. This 
was consistent with the passion for preparation and process that she had 
often voiced to me. As a child of ten, when she went to the symphony 
with her sister, both in their black velvet dresses with white Irish lace 
collars, her favorite moment had alwavs been that of the orchestra timing 
up— more than the actual performance. When her parents gave costume 
parties in their Berlin apartment, she loved watching the usual furniture 
being taken away and the party props being moved in, just as she was 
fascinated by the return to the norm after the party; transformation, and 
the working of components, were her nectar. The end result was never 
quite as interesting. But what pleasure there had been on the occasion in 
her childhood when her familvs formal flat became the (itunewald, the 
vast area of parks on the outskirts of Berlin. Large canvases of landscapes 
were speciallv installed to create this picnic setting, and guests entering the 
verdant paradise were met by a simulated boat, created on a bed frame 
on wheels, that ferried them a few feet through the entr\\vay, as if they 
were crossing one of the lakes of the Grunewald. Most!)' Anni had negative 
memories of her mother; she mainly recalled confrontation (even though 
her mother had arranged all the study of art when the adolescent Anni 
showed some initial talent, and had accompanied her to the studio of 
Oskar Kokoschka in Dresden in the hopes that he would take her on as 
a pupil — he did not) and her mother's complaints and pessimism. But 
she fondly remembered the occasion when her mother appeared at a partv' 
where the motif was a railroad station — established by murals of sausage 
stands, ticket booths, and information desks — and acted like a child 
who was lost before returning as a mother looking for a missing child. 

Variations outside the norm, the shifts from one state to another, 
the sense of something happening: these brought considerable delight to 
Anni and Josef. On those occasions when 1 drove them to New York, they 
were invariably fascinated by construction sites and the scaffolding of new- 
buildings, pointing out to me how the process evolved. 

Trial and error — the essence of process — never seemed to frustrate 
Anni. By the time of our visit to the print shop, she had had to redo the 
handmade pencil part of her print at least twice before we discovered that 
these grays imits had to be larger than she intended them to be in the final 
print so that the\- could be totalK' trapped, as Anni wished them to be, by 
the solid design on top. Now, as the first prints began to roll off the press, 
Anni saw that the gra\' of the upper half was darker than at the bottom. 
She insisted that this was her fault; she had done the two parts on separate 
occasions and had applied too little pressure the second time. As with 
her work in weaving, certain issues were paramount: the knowledge 
of materials, the decree of force or laxirv, the wish for deliberate balance 




168. Annclisc and Ixniu IL-isclim.iiiii. 
Berlin, ca. 1908. 



135 



as a setting for irregularity, and the adjustments required to proceed 
from the initial concept to an end result that was still completely fresh. 

The foreman joined the pressman in discussing the problem of 
the two differing grays and Anni's wish to regulate them. They determined 
that a press adjustment would enable them to lighten the top gray. Anni 
was thrilled to use the machine to correct her mistake. She explained 
to all oi us that the printing was as important to her artwork as was her 
initial design concept. The role of the equipment, she subsequently told 
me, had been equally important when she started textile work at age 
twenty-two. Initially she had resisted the medium and had considered it 
"sissy stuff" — she used the term often — as opposed to wall painting or 
the other Bauhaus workshops she had hoped to enter. As her entrance pro- 
jects by which she had gained admission to the Bauhaus, she had made a 
three-dimensional study out of the interiors of thermos bottles — broken 
bits of glass and metal — and a very naturalistic drawing of a piece of wood 
accompanied by a black-to-white color sequence. Not unnaturally in light 
of the thermos assemblage, once she was admitted she considered entering 
the stained-glass workshop, where she admired the skill and originality of 
the glass-shard collages being made by Josef, eleven years her elder and one 
of the reasons that, in spite of having failed her initial entrance exam, she 
had become so eager to remain at the Bauhaus. (Josef coached her for the 
second round of tests, which she passed.) But the Bauhaus masters felt that 
one person was enough in that field — and that carpentry, wall painting, or 
metalwork would prove to be too strenuous for her. She told me, "I was 
not at all enthusiastic about going into the weaving workshop, because I 
wanted to do a real man's job and not something as sissy as working with 
threads." But once she accepted the idea of textiles, she immersed herself 
in the possibilities and limitations of the loom, the textures of the available 
materials, the role of warp and weft, and the visible charms as well as the 
structural aspect of knotting. "Even if you were a painting student of 
Klee's or Kandinsky s, you had to go through a course in a workshop. So I 
had to do that if I wanted to stay; and I wanted to stay. This weaving was 
a kind of railing to me — the limitations that come with a craft. That was 
a tremendous help to me, as I think it probably can be to anybody, 
so long as you, at the same time, are concerned with breaking through it." 

II. 

/ knew a man once who was the best compositor in the world, and who was 
sought out by all those who devoted themselves to inventing artistic types; he 
derived joy, not so much from the very genuine respect i)i which he was held by 
persons whose respect was not lightly bestowed as from the actual delight in the 
exercise of his craft, a delight not wholly unlike that which good dancers derive 
from dancing. I have known also compositors who were experts in setting up 
mathematical type, or script, or cuneiform, or anything else that was out of the 
way or difficult. I did not discover whether these men's private lives were happy, 
but in their working hours their constructive instincts ivere frilly gratified. 
— Bertrand Russell' 

A month or so before this trip to Fox Press, Anni had devised a second 
print one afternoon when we accidentally juxtaposed a negative of the first 
print over a Velox — a shiny proof — of it. She was happy with the resultant 
pattern, but did not want thin lines of blank paper to show between the 
shapes and the overlap, a result that was possible to achieve only through 
printing techniques; there could not have been a study drawing. 1 he 
shop foreman, who had closely h)llowed the development process of both 



136 



prints, came over as this second image was coming oH the press and asked 
if it wasn't even better than tlie concept behind the first print. Anni smiled 
and agreed. 

As with the first image, Anni liad de\ ised tlie o\erall lormat and 
margins so that the paper size would fit into prefabricated metal-strip 
frames. The Alberses were both great believers in adjusting their work 
according to the sizes oi available products. Standardization appealed. 
Anni had given up her loom in 1968 because she was moving to a house 
where no room was big enough for it; or at least this was the reason 
she gave. (This obkiscation through sounding deceptively martcr-of-tact 
struck me as being on a par with her listing of her profession on her 
passport as "housewife." Clearly if she had wanted to keep on weaving, 
she could have moveti to a house with enough space for her loom.) 
When an earnest art historian once asked josef wh\' he had enlarged the 
size of his Honitiga to the SqiKtrc and had begun a grou|i of fortx-eiglu- 
by-forty-eight-inch panels, and, to Josef's irritation, suggested that it had 
something to do with a response to the scale of the American landscape 
and the oversize canvases used by the Abstract Expressionists, Josef replied 
that it was because he had gotten a larger station wagon. 

Meanwhile, the press had been set up to print the black of 
the second image. As we admired the adjustments the pressman made 
when he switched from the proof paper to the thick and luxuriant 
Rives BFK that Anni had specified, the print Hew off the press, its ink 
coverage lush and gorgeous. Just like that, one hundred and fifty sheets. 
It was time for lunch. 

On the car ride to a local restaurant, I was again struck by how 
this elderly woman, for all of the visibility of her struggles, had something 
about her of an eager child. Her face undisguisedly revealed the battles 
of her youth; the rebellion against her mother and anger toward her as she 
rejected the trappings of upper-class existence for the rigors of Modernism; 
the Hight from Nazism and, more arduous yet, the painful efforts a few 
years later to get family and friends to America when refugee ships were 
being turned away from our shores; the ups and downs of a marriage 
to a powerful and all too self-satisfieci man, whose draw for other women 
caused no little grief for his very self-conscious wife. 

Anni often said that wherever she was she felt like "the youngest 
person in the room. " She first mentioneci this to me when describing 
being taken, as a child, to the Secession show in Berlin. Her father regularly 
took her to museums on Sundays; this time he had opted for something 
more adventurous than usual. She said that as she observed the shocked 
crowds shaking their heads disapprovingly at the avant-garde images, she 
"simply thought, 'Why not? " Telling me this when she was seventy-six, 
she remarked that having been the only child at that Secession exhibition, 
she had felt like the youngest person in most situations ever since, and 
that she still always asked, "'Why not?" 

Indeed, in attitucle and interest she was younger, and fresher, than 
most of my contemporaries, even if I was fifty years her junior. She was 
like the awkward sort of adolescent girl, not the ver\- prett\- one patently 
pleased with herself, but rather the one who has to make the extra effort, 
the one intensely asking questions and looking at the world before her. 

I have, since that tirne, heard Anni called — by a perfectly guileless woman 
who knew her for years at Black Mountain — "the homeliest woman who 
ever lived.' I have also heard scores of witnes.ses who visited her house or 
saw her in public describe her as incredibK- beautiful. 1 ler face was sharply 



137 




169. Josef and Anni Albers's graves, Orange 
Town Cemetery, Orange, Connecticut. 



delineated, intense, and sometimes a bit crazed — like Virginia Woolf's — 
but her looks were quite unlike anyone else's. 

Anni herself hated her features, which for her were very caught 
up with her Jewishness. It was uncertain to me as to whether she had a 
problem with being Jewish because it was associated in her mind with the 
facial characteristics she did not like in herself, or whether she disliked her 
face because to her it represented her Jewishness, which she eschewed for 
other reasons — but in any event, much as 1 would rather not acknowledge 
this, she was supremely uncomfortable not just with her own face and 
body, but also with her religious heritage and, on some levels, with her 
femininity. Nothing was easy for this complex person, who paradoxically 
was so like a true ingenue. 

In the car that day, on the way to the restaurant, she was happier 
than usual and eagerly took the conversation from topic to topic. She and 
Josef led a life of remarkable solitude. Their house was truly a machine 
for working, with living as a secondary concern; they virtually never spent 
their evenings with other people, and any encounters they had were almost 
always for the purpose of making or showing art. Josef was not much 
inclined under any circumstances to discuss politics or world affairs. Anni, 
on the other hand, was keenly aware of the news, which came to her 
through a large radio and a TV that sat on rolling tables near her bed, and 
if her husband, she told me, felt as if the news was "all the same, always 
repeating itself, not as interesting as art," the events of the world fascinated 
her. Like Josef, she too had art as a credo; she would point out that while 
science constantly changes and new discoveries outdate old ideas, art offers 
unique stability, citing the example of a two-thousand-year-old Korean 
teapot with timeless appeal that affects the beholder in much the same way 
as the art of our own times. Nevertheless, the news mattered to her. 
On the way to lunch and at the restaurant, what was on her mind was a 
recent shooting on an Israeli airplane; most often, though, in that time 
period she was preoccupied with Watergate and desperate to discuss 
Maureen Dean or Martha Mitchell or Nixon himself In some ways, she 
seemed to be a broader intellectual, and a fuller person, than Josef 

With the Israeli shooting as her topic, Anni's ambivalence about 
being Jewish was again apparent. Although she would subsequently change 
it, in her will at that time she had left her collection of Pre-Columbian 
textiles to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem; even though she had never 
been there, she felt an affinity for that country. Yet she would often 
describe herself as Jewish only "in the Hitler sense": her mother's family, 
named UUstein, had gone through a mass family conversion to Christi- 
anity at the end of the nineteenth century, and her father, Siegfried 
Fleischmann, had seen to her being confirmed as a Lutheran in her child- 
hood — in Berlin's great and fashionable Karl Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche. 
She was proud that this latter fact had enabled her and Josef to acquire the 
grave plots they wanted in Orange, in the section of the cemetery where 
Catholics like Josef were generally not allowed to be buried. (The choice 
of burial site was extremely important to them, in part because they want- 
ed to be right next to the narrow driveway that wandered through the 
cemetery so that, once the first of them had died, the remaining one could 
go to the post office and then drive into the graveyard, stop the car, roll 
down the window, and read the mail in the company of the other — 
without having to get out of the car. Indeed, Anni often made such visits, 
although, contrary to plan, she was driven there by my wife or me, and 
never seemed to understand that, if she was to be right next to Josef this 
meant entering from the opposite direction than they had originally 



118 



planned, since now she was in the passenger's seat, on the other side ot the 
car.) But in the face of anti-Semitism, as reflected in the violence in Israel, 
Anni considered herself to be Jewish. 

Anni had told me a month earlier about how oHended she was 
when, at the Bauhaus, Mies van der Rohe and anottier architect, named 
Ludwig Hildesheimer, had spoken nastily ot "Jewish girls Irom hrankturt ; 
Anni said that they should have known better than to .say that in Iront of 
her. I doubt that she saw any irony in this, even though she had explained 
to me numerous times that she didn't really consider herscll to be Jewish. 

But her attitude toward her own background was as unique as 
everything else about her. Instead ol reacting with anger or fear when her 
Jewish heritage had forced them out ol Germany, she told me she had lelt 
"uncomfortable and responsible lor Jo.sels having to leave his homeland 
alter lorry-five years." She considered herself "almost a weight around 
Josef's neck. " When their boat had docked in New York, hours late 
because of a storm, and the photographers, there to cover the arrival of 
first-class passengers but then told that a famous artist was also on board, 
had begun to take pictures of the Modernist who had arrived to teach at 
Black Mountain, a jaunty newspaperman had lightened her mood consid- 
erably with a remark that might have infuriated .someone else: " Fhe wife. 
Let's get the wife too!" he had exclaimed. Anni quoted this to me with 
delight on numerous occasions. She relished his informality, and she had 
been happy to .see someone break ranks from the crowd of reporters 
surrounding Josef. The attention had somehow helped assuage her guilt. 
There was never an iota of resentment in her retelling of the incident. 

In spite of her not having been offended when others might have 
been, Anni often considered herself the victim of an insult or rudeness; 
many times her memories of people revolved around a nast)' remark they 
had made to her. Mies, Anni would recall in another of our conversations, 
was central to yet another social slight for her. She and Josef were newly- 
weds and had just moved into one of the masters' houses at the Dessau 
Bauhaus. Josef told his new bride that Mies and his mistress, Lilly Reich, 
would be coming for dinner. Anni was determined to do her best in every 
way possible. Her mother had given her a butter curler, and she made a 
neat mound of butter balls that she put on the table prior to their guests' 
arrival. Mies and Reich had only just walked in when Reich looked before 
her and burst out, "Butter balls! Here at the Bauhaus! I should think at 
the Bauhaus you'd have a good solid ^/of^ of butter." 

Anni's face betrayed the wound she had incurred at the remark; 
she said that she had barely been able to get through dinner. Yet — perhaps 
as a natural consequence — this beleaguered victim could dish out much 
of the same. Once, a year or so following my marriage (a few months 
after Josef's death), my wife purchased a new dress for the opening of an 
exhibition of Josef's work at the Yale Art Gallery. Katharine — whose natur- 
al, no-makeup prettiness was a source of envy for Anni — was not particu- 
larly confident about clothing matters. We went together to Anni's house 
to pick her up belore the event. Katharine was in high spirits, and, in spite 
of an almost total lack of vanity, felt rather pleased about the simply cut 
and very becoming dress. She entered Anni's bedroom — Anni, characteris- 
tically, was stretching out at the last minute to rest up before the event — 
with more than the usual lilt to her walk. 

"Is that a new dress?" Anni asked as she gazed seriously. 

"Yes," Katharine answered. 

"Can you still return it?" This second question was accompanied 
by a sadistic smile. What the incident realK- ie\ealed about Anni — 




170. Josef and Anni Albcrs arriving 
in New York on board the SS Europa, 
November 24, 1933. 



139 



lyi. For Kathy's Nov. 12, igSi, 
1982. Yellow marker on wove paper, 
14.6 X 15.9 cm (5 /<; X 6 /^ inches). 
Collection of Katharine Weber. 

Like a medieval map of some distant island, 
Anni's drawing for my twenty-seventh 
birthday in 1982 signifies the uncharted 
and unchartable nature of her own emo- 
tional geography. For me, the drawing has 
always represented something unspoken 
that existed between us. Our relationship 
was one of mutual respect, cautious 
affection, and occasional adversarial 
sparring. The same week she made this 
drawing, Anni learned that we were 
expecting our second child — another rival, 
perhaps, but also another member of 
her not quite family. 

The organic shape in the drawing 
looks both flat and dimensional, because 
her thick line seems to float yet it also has 
an edge. The three squared dots on the 
left are elements that might travel up 
over the open top of the form and move 
about inside. Is it a maze? Is it a living 
body? Is it leaping across the page or is it 
suspended, a weighted, chunky form that 
her shaky pen has carved in the paper? 

Did she anticipate that our second 
baby would take us farther away from her? 
Does the drawing depict her conception 
of the three little Webers nearly devoured 
by the grasping, looming form of her 
distorted body? Or were we like a tiny 
archipelago along her coast, sheltered in 
her safe harbor? 

Katharine Weber 



her jealousy, her extreme mixture of kindness and nastiness, or her cruelty, 
whether deliberate or inadvertent — is hard to gauge, but it was t\'pical. 

Yet in spite of this exchange, and other comparable slights, 
Katharine had considerable fondness and respect for Anni — and relished 
the unique workings of her mind. Once, when going to the local market 
to pick up some groceries for Anni, she was making a list when Anni 
requested "a banana" — pronounced bah-«/?/>nah — or, with the as similar- 
ly stretched "an avocado." No one else, Katharine felt, could want one 
or the other as if they were comparable. But for Anni texture, not taste, 
was the issue. 

Katharine also took particular delight in Anni's obsession with 
plastic. She was fascinated by the way that, when the three of us went 
to the warehouse where Josef's art was stored, Anni would covet the 
enormous clear bags used to cover sofas — just as she relished the sleeves 
given by banks for savings-account passbooks. Katharine has often 
remarked that Anni was the only person she has known who made slip- 
covers for her washer and dryer. The great textile artist stitched these 
herself out of shower-curtain material — which, Katharine felt, was Anni's 
favorite of all substances. 

At lunch on the day of our Fox Press outing, Anni also sang the praise 
of Fred Harris — then a potential presidential candidate — and said that she 
admired his Indian wife. I would learn over the years that many of her 
political views were based on the impressions people made, on their faces 
and the appearance of their character, more than on any deeper knowledge 
of their platforms. Looks were paramount, in people outside the realm of 
politics as well. So she and Josef liked Nelson Rockefeller, who seemed 
pleasant, and had little use for Gerald Ford, "who had a face like a knee." 
The novelist Robert Penn Warren was of no interest to them — because of 
something about his face. It was as if people were like constructed works 
of art: the qualities of balance or aggressiveness, of correctness or ugliness, 
could be apprised even with a cursory view. 

Anni also didn't seem to have any awareness of, or at least concern 
for, the effects of her words. So she would often say, when justifying her 
theory that what seems bad at first can in the long run be beneficial, "After 
all, this Hitler business turned out rather well for Josef and me." She did 
not grasp, even when my wife pointed it out to her, that this statement 
might offend some people. Now, at lunch, Anni put forward the view that 
Red China seemed the ideal country, for it had the discipline our own 
society lacked. She complained that we had too much freedom at that 
moment — just as there had been too much freedom at Black Mountain. 
But if her effect on her audience didn't count, it seemed that her husband 
was her conscience or superego: smiling apologetically, she said, "I'm glad 
Josef can't hear me now. He'd be furious if he heard me say that." 

When Anni and my father and I drove back to Fox Press after 
lunch, 1 offered up the idea that I did not think any government could 
improve our society, that our whole way of thinking was what needed to 
change. My father asked if I thought that religion could help; I said no, 
but I thought that education might. Anni was quiet throughout this dia- 
logue, apparently deep in thought. Suddenly she burst out, "Through art!" 

It was the faith of the Bauhaus come alive: through buildings, 
through teacups, through the design of newspapers, there could result a 
yes to the soul. Hard work, clarity, and brilliant art could together change 
the world. 

The magnificence of this woman became clear to me. She had a 



140 



faith — a belief system both tor herself and for societ\- at large — to which 
she devoted her life. Part of the \va\- that she ser\ed this liigher [nirpose 
was by doing everything she could to support and aid Josef; he might, in 
ways, irritate her as a husband — the disappointments and frustrations of 
their relationship were sometimes all too apparent — but he was a true 
practitioner of the philosophy and code she revered, and to make his com- 
plex life run more smoothly, whether in the organization of an exhibition 
on the other side of the ocean or the doing of his laundry, served Annis 
credo. But be\ond that, entirely in her own right, she was daring and giv- 
ing — and constantly looking. Josef had declared, shortly after arriving at 
Black Mountain, that his goal was "to make open the eves" — which soon 
became "to open eves," the v\'ords svnon\'mous with his higliK- influential 
teaching — and no one exempliHed this better than his uncompromising, 
sometimes obstreperous, wife. Anni ancJ Josef together — for all the vin and 
yang of their two sometimes contrasting personalities — had a common 
raison d'etre. They believed that art could change the world as nothing else 
could. Morality, balance, decency, a responsiveness to the richness of 
the universe and of human life: all of this could be revealed and abetted 
through paint, thread, and ink. 

Anni was immensely serious in all this, but she was also wry. 
When, a few weeks later, we took up the topic of social change again, 
she recalled that my father had offered that improvement might be 
made "through sex." She repeated this with a glimmer. Sex, 1 would later 
learn, was one of her favorite topics. She had to know someone very well 
before bringing it up, but, sometimes playful, sometimes mischievous, 
she had lots of questions she wanted answered, lots of words she had 
heard on television and neecJed to have explained. Once, when a student 
at Black Mountain asked her wJio in history she would most like to have 
been or who her favorite imaginary persona was, Anni, with her rather 
sticklike figure and mmlike persona, did not miss a beat in her answer: 
"Mae West." 

Back at Fox Press after lunch, Anni again bore the look of glee — of pro- 
found contentment — with which she commenced any activity having to 
do with the making of art. Once she had gone through the diplomatic 
niceties with the pressmen, she seated herself again on the simple wooden 
chair — bearing an uncanny resemblance to Balthus's portrait of the 
Vicomtesse de Noailles, in which that great patron of the avant-garde was 
painted not in one of her elaborate residences but rather, dressed austerely, 
on a simple side chair in the artist's rugged atelier, her face serious, her 
thoughts turned inward. Anni became both resolute and concentrated, 
a missionary on a campaign, a research scientist peering into a microscope 
in the hope that what would soon be visible might provide an answer 
to an unsolved mystery of existence. She approved the tone and color mix 
of the red for her first print, and off it rolled. Then, watching the press 
wash-up, Anni compared this necessity to the counting of threads in 
weaving, it was all part of the process of art, she remarked. The emotional 
securit)', the sense of hope, the sublime feeling of possibility afhirded by 
that process were her elixir. 

Now it was time to run the brown of her second print. Josef had 
selected the precise ink a few days earlier from the PMS ink swatch book. 
In that simple act of collaboration, one could see the answer to the often- 
asked questions about their relationship as fellow artists, as a husband and 
wife achieving different levels of success in similar fields, as a man and 
woman living and working together in the twentieth ceritiu\. I'he Alberses 



141 




172. Anni Albcrs in her kitchen 

at 8 North Forest Circle, New Haven, 

Connecticut, 1958. 



were like a rwo-person religious sect. Their goal was simple: to make the . 
best possible art. They cared above all about honesty in their approach 
to this task. Like two builders working side by side on the erection of the 
same edifice, occasionally they might take advice from one another, hear 
a helpful suggestion; otherwise, in their work, they mainly just kept their 
eyes on the job, not on each other. 

One hears stories that suggest that there was competitiveness in 
their relationship, like that of Josef leaving the house when the director of 
the Yale Art Gallery arrived there to buy one of Anni's weavings for the 
museum and not returning until after the deal was complete. But was this 
out of jealousy, his not being able to bear his wife's success, as the observer 
inferred? Or was it because he was then at the peak of his fame, particu- 
larly in the Yale community following the publication of his Interaction of 
Color, and he did not want to steal the stage but rather to let his wife 
enjoy the attention? The common claim is that Anni suffered as the lesser- 
known of rwo great artists. On the other hand, there are weavers who 
bitterly maintain that as Mrs. Josef Albers she had entree where they did 
not, that she benefited considerably from the visits to her house of art- 
world luminaries, and from a last name that was known by every critic and 
museum director. Did her work amount to less because she functioned, 
to use her favorite term, as "that dragon at the door," protecting her 
husband from the sometimes unwelcome advances of journalists, gallerists, 
and students? Did she lose out because of the time she spent doing his 
laundry or preparing his meals? 

Indeed, Josef was so inept in this latter process that once, when 
Anni was heading to the hospital for a scheduled operation that would 
require her absence of three days, she left out a row of cans of food, 
instructed him (twice) on how to use the electric can opener, and showed 
him precisely what was involved in turning the stove on and off But, as 
she often pointed out, the activity of thinking about food and cooking it 
only entered her life once she was fifty; in her childhood she had lived in 
the sort of household where only staff entered the kitchen; at the Bauhaus 
there had been a cafeteria, at Black Mountain a dining room. Only in 
1950, when she and Josef arrived in New Haven, did Anni have to think 
about making dinner. And rather than resenting the task, she approached 
it like a new artistic medium. Josef, after all, used the word "recipe" to 
refer to the color arrangements of his Homages:, Anni too saw cooking as 
an act of taking components and combining them effectively, even if it was 
an area where she favored minimal expenditure of time and energy and 
aimed merely for adequate, not exciting, results. (When I was first setting 
up modest bachelor digs and clearly had little idea about how to cook, 
she advised me on her favorite recipe, for ''himmel und erde' — heaven and 
earth. It consisted of taking a jar of applesauce and mixing it, in equal 
parts, with instant mashed potatoes.) 

But whatever the details, Anni often claimed that she liked doing 
things for Josef When he died, one of her immediate laments was that 
she would miss the need to buy him shirts and socks. On quite a different 
level, she once told me of an occasion when she was pleased that her hus- 
band asked for her help when he wanted to end a love affair and could not 
manage to shake off the woman on his own; Anni, in complete collabora- 
tion with Josef, met the forlorn mistress in order to stop the relationship 
once and for all. The terms of their marriage are hardly to everyone's taste, 
but apparently they suited the participants. 

Anni's memory of their early courtship reveals a singular lack 
of confidence, which may explain a lot of her subsequent attitudes. At her 



142 



first Bauhaus Christmas party — in Weimar in 1922 — she wore a dress of 
brilHant green silk accented by a little pink velvet ribbon. Santa Claus had 
many gifts to distribute from his huge basket; Anni — by her own descrip- 
tion, "a shy newcomer" — knew that she would not get one. Suddenly 
Santa called out her name. He handed her a print of Giotto's Flight into 
Egypt. The card was addressed to her from Josef; the thrill was unequivocal. 

1 he following June, when she was home in Berlin tor her rwentv- 
third birthday, Anni was similarly surprised when a package arrived 
containing a twelve-inch-high bronze copy of a lithe and gr.icctu! l\g\ ptiaii 
figure at the Pergamon Museum. Only rwo copies ot the hgure existed, 
and the near-penniless Joset had secured this one hir her. It was an image 
I knew well, since Anni still had it at her bedside when I knew her, on the 
plain white wooden bookshell onK' a few feet from her pillow. In hict, every 
photograph ot an\'whcre she ever lived shows the bronze next to her bed. 

Anni told me that shortly after receiving the Egyptian figure, 
she earned some money by selling necklaces that she made out of little 
beads, and this enabled her to take Josef, whom she was now seeing often, 
"to a good tailor to have a conventional suit made. " His usual garb was a 
khaki corduroy jacket with a hint of white silk scarf showing beneath it; 
while Anni considered this very becoming, she was also concerned about 
its unconventionality. She reacted similarly to the way he wore his hair 
forward in bangs: "I still fall for any man with this haircut today," 
she allowed with a smile, but she added that he had to change this haircut 
for the reason that "the waiters in Weimar restaurants were inattentive 
because of his bohemian looks." In a similar vein, Anni felt he should have 
the new suit as a necessary prelude to a visit to the world of her parents; 
she wanted them to feel easy about the young man from "the adventurous 
art school." These attitudes — both the aesthetic preferences and the 
notions about clothing in its sociological context, or visual st\'le and the 
message of class — were with Anni throughout her life. 

Indeed, the entire Fleischmann family was charmed by Josef in 
his suit. Annis brother, ten years younger than she, "could not leave Josef's 
side." Her younger sister wrote to Anni at the Bauhaus just to thank her 
for bringing home "the beautiful Memling." Her mother would later tell 
Josef that if he ever had an\- real trouble with Anni, the house was always 
open to him without her. When Josef in 1925, was the first student to be 
asked by Gropius to become a master at the Bauhaus, meaning to Anni 
(so surprisingly traditional in certain ways) that she could now ask her 
parents about their getting married, her parents gave their full support; 
the wealthy Jewish Berliners readily embraced the impoverished Westfalian 
Catholic, even if Josef's father and stepmother, back in Bottrop, were 
far less comfortable with the match. Anni and Josef were wed in a Catholic 
church a short walk from the Fleischmanns' apartment — with only her 
immediate family present as guests — and then repaired to the elegant 
Hotel Adlon for a celebration lunch. Larger parties and events, Anni and 
Josef felt, were not for them. They belonged, rather, "to those who do 
things like that"; all of the Alberses' time and energ)' had to be focused on 
the making of art. 

In 1953 and 1954, when Josef was teaching in Ulm while Anni remained 
in New Haven, they wrote to each other all the time — thus leaving corre- 
spondence that is one of the few written testimonials of their particular 
communication with one another. 

An emphasis on clothing, as well as Annis delight in helping 
Josef, are recurring themes. She wrote to him shortK- after his departure, in 




173. Gionu, ihght into l.g)'l>t< 1304-06. 
Scrovegni Chapel, Padua. 




I'^4 and I~5. RcprodiKtion 1 t;\p(iaii 
figurine given to Anni by Joset on her 
tweniy-third birthday (above), and the 
figurine on Anni s bedside shelf at 
808 Birchwood Drive, Orange, 
Connecticut. 1994 (below). 



143 



a letter full of chat about the details of life — dinners out with friends and 
family (they were apparently more sociable during this period than at the 
time I knew them) and Anni's usual mix of pleasure and fear of things 
done or said wrong, "I started painting your ceiling now, all the paper is 
off. It goes slow. But all your shirts have their new collars. So at least 
something gets done."' Pleasure, rather than resentment, is a salient 
quality, as is her love for her husband and for the sights and miracles of 
existence they savored together: 

The moss outside looks uwnderful, greener and greener as the days 

get wetter. 

Almost 2 iveeks gone by III two weeks less. 

Now I'll go and paint some more ceiling, being in your room helps. 
Four days later, after writing to him almost daily with typewritten pages 
full of news, she concluded, 

/ like best being in your room. 

How is the dark beer? 

love and love Ank. 
Three days after that, there was more of the same: 

Still painting your room, the area ivith the 2 doors now has two 

coats and tomorrow I hope to get the last one so that that is done. 

Remains still the niche toward the street . . . and the radiator. 

But it begins to look ivonderful. 

Ironies abound here. Josef's father had been a housepainter, while 
Anni's had been someone who hired workmen for such tasks. Josef made 
his art with paint — the medium that Anni would gladly have opted 
for over textiles — which she only used now, in this menial way, to redo his 
room in his absence. But no such factors or resentment entered her 
conscious thoughts. Her delight was total. Two-and-a-half weeks later, she 
reported, 

I finished your room today, the awful radiator is now fine white 

with two coats ofi enamel, and noiv it can smell itself out until you 

come back. As a special treat, I made up your bed today, a little 

early, but it made me feel good. 

Along with news of arrangements with the Sidney Janis Gallery in 
New York made on Josef's behalf with a keen response to his letters 
(or their lack), with chat about further evenings out and details of bank 
statements and other aspects of domestic life, this woman, who was 
so ambivalent about her own appearance, so seemingly plain while at the 
same time intensely self-conscious, also reported, at the end of one letter, 
'And most important: a new hairdresser who is supposed to cut excellently, 
will go there Monday!!!" The report came five days later: 

Most important: that I have a hairdresser ivho has a sense offormlll 

Has taken drawing lessons fom one of your students, Slutsky or so, 

and he ivants to continue ivith someone again, perhaps Si. I think 

you would agree that it is much better already and gradually he will 

get my hair into better shape when all that was cut wrongly has 

grown back. 
How Robert Slutsky and Si Sillman — two of Josef's most successful 
students at Yale — would have felt knowing that the element of their sense 
of form that mattered most to their teacher's wife had to do with her 
coif is questionable. 

Yet Anni was not being frivolous; hair was a serious matter. 
In evaluating Josef 's students, if Anni wanted to denigrate any of them, 
all that she had to do was refer to "the bearded ones." 



144 



Not. 28.53 



Juv7e , 

Die Uberfahrt klingt nicht so besonders erholend! I only- 
hope you were not too miserable and that you recovered on 
the rest of the trip. The menu looks enormous! 

And by now I hope you are in Ulm and that it is what you 

had hoped for. Sofar I had a letter from Southhampton. Maybe 

another one v.ill come today. 

All goes well here and people are nice. Thanksgiving I was 
next door at the Halls, with your photos, and all was really- 
nice. One afternoon the Chaets came with the archaeology 
girl and that was nice too. One evening I had Si and Jim and 
Sheilagh and she is going to take her Jeep station wagon to 
New York with Si and me to pick up the Cooper Union things. 
I had offered to pay for all expenses involved. So that will 
be Dec. 1. if there is not snow by then, as the weatherman 
has announced CCr these days. Today Wu has asked Kans & Betty- 
including children ( ! ) and me for dinner. I aim- embarrassed 
that by bringing the children he will have such a crowd. I 
asked him to bring them first for cocktails here. They come 
already early in the afternoon and ?.'u is taking them through 
the gallery. 

Paps writes he plans to stay till april. What then, I don't 
know, Hans writes he wants to take up the money problem. 

Yesterday Si took me after lunch with them, to the upper part 
of the Gallery with the Asia things etc. Looks really fine. 

George Howe I have not reached yet. Never there. Do write 
him a postcard. I'll also try again. ^'Sf ^ t" ^v^ a y ^ ^ 

A nice note from Farnsworth, Chicago. 

And one from Bobby... I'll go there for Christmas. 

I started painting your ciiling now, all the paper is off. 
It goes slow. Put all your shirts have their new collars. 
So at least something gets done. 

The moss outside looks wonderful, greener and greener as 
the days get wetter. 

Almost 2 weeks gone by!!! two veeks less. 

Now I'll go and paint some more ceiling, being in your room 
helps. 

so love, 





<^vv^.<^ C< t^ u^ 



176. Letter from Anni Albcrs to Josff Albers, 
November 28, 1953. 



14s 




Josef tenimed for a second stint in Ulm in the spring of 1955, 

so again there are letters that document both the feelings and the details 
that mattered to the .\lberses. Anni s voice repeals the same resened exu- 
berance tbar is evident in her art, a comparable immersion in tactile and 
\4sual pleasures, and a need for emodonal connection that is as strong as 
the feeling for linkages of thread and shape. In a letter wrinen to "Juvel" 
on Mav iz, she assured him. "Here all is fine and I am not lonelv because 
I ha\e such a good feeling about us and the i~. to look forward to. Aug. i~ 
is wiiai tbey sai.- here is the arri%"al date.~ She also reported, 

VHjen i>ou leji, took laxi w Abrrcrombu and Fitch and bou^n 
TTD'se^a really good coat, m^ersibU, tweed and rain-coat, inside-out- 
sidi, think vou u-ill apprvir, expensiie too, ~^,T7. In other stores 
saw Twtlyino tijoi looked rizht. So now I have a good one too. 
TTie%- were still both wearing these coats when I knew them 
more than fifteen ^^ears laten in a \*ay the .-Vlberses sometimes looked like 
brother and sister as much as the}" did husband and wife, and the simple, 
generous cur of these coats with raglan slee\es gave them a comp>arable 
iook of timeless fashion. The warm tweed and practical waterproof materi- 
al were a srviish and appealing combination. 

Art and other aspects of the visual world permeate this correspon- 
dence. Anni reported to Josef, of a show at the Museum of Modem Art, 
"Tliere is a fi-ench painter in there, Manessier, w^iom I Uke. Pictures look 
nne. he looks right and wiiat he writes is beautihil, I think." At the same 
time, the leuers show an equal concern for the fimadonal. Shordy before 
going to teach at dbe Ha}-stack School in Maine. .Anni informed Josef 
Bought myself som£ light colored and washable cotton slacks for 
l^imne. Of all places it wasfijudly Sean Roebuck where I found 
some decent ones. Tried Abercrombie etc. . . . And there too, 
I bought myself a birthday present, a little gray metal typewriter 
table on rollers, charming only ~.)0 amazingly enough. It comes 
packed in parts and on the 12th [fune 12, her birthday] I will 
get it out and put it together, think fiou will like it and it seems 
just right to roll around on my own. At least that's what I think/ 
Hope it will uvrk out when its set up. 
so love and love, from Ankele 

.-\nd six days later, on the twelfth, this woman, who so relished 
dbe assembling of components, wTote to "Jm'el" first that she had received 
three birthday letters fi-om him on time — "so it really turned into a fine 
birthday with your jxjwerful help" — ^and added. 

And now I am sitting at my new little gray metal typewriter-table, 
which rolls around dye room, — I had saved it for today, the putting 
together of the parts and it took me a good part of the morning 



and was interesting to do. 



After JoseTs death, Anni found it easy to fault him; in her memo- 
ries he was indifferent at rimes to her bad health, comf)eririve THe told 
me my first prints looked like wallf>a{>er 'j. and secretive — parricularly 
about the financial well-being that came to him lace in life. At the same 
dme, she saw herself as equally difficult ("When he made his first squares, 
I said. The}' re like Easter e^s. If that s all you praint, now we 11 ne\'er 
have enough to eat.'"). But at least in the way that I often saw them in 
the last years of their life together, through their fiftieth wedding anniver- 
sar\- less than a year before Josef died in 19-6, and as their great Black 
Mountain companions and housemates Ted and Bobbie Dreier knew them 
to be, the Alberses, in ^ite of the occasional squabble, were mutually 
supponive teammates, intensdy lespeoful of each other's dedication to art. 



seriousness oi purpose, iiuegrit)', and acliie\enient. joset al\va\'s wrote the 
titles and otiier information on tlie back oi Annis \\ea\ int;s because his 
handwriting; was neater than hers. In some cases, he also suggested a color 
tor her to use. Likewise, Anni voiced a preference for certain of Josef's 
Homages. In fact, in spite of her initial response, slie uhnn.ueK toiuui 
them glorious, so much so that after Josef's death we discovered that, m 
addition to the thousands of artworks he had already left her, he had, 
on the backs of those over which she had \'oiced particular enthusiasm and 
on others that he considered his ultimate achievements, written "N.F.S." — 
not for sale — "Property of A.A. " So within Josef's collection there was a 
collection that came to her as a complete surprise in her period of deepest 
mourning. He had also — but this she alwa\s knew — given her the Hrst 
of ever\' print edition. 

Anni was proud that Josef had selected the brown for the second print she 
made at Fox Press. He was, after all, the colorist. It helped, of course, 
that for years they were in different fielcis within the same arena — she was 
the wea\er, while he pursued glass and metal and wood and then paint — 
but even when both were printmakers the nature of their work was so 
different (he was mainly involved, in the late stage of his graphics, the 
point at which Anni took up the medium, in color as the central issue, 
she more in line and surface and the particularities of the process) that 
competition was not a factor. Rather, they went side by side to the work- 
shop of Ken Tyler, where they made many of their prints, taking turns 
and offering suggestions. I he\' knew better than to tr\- to work together 
on an artwork — both were too strong-willed, and too potentiall)' cantan- 
kerous, for that — but they completely supported and respected each 
other's work and the priorit\' of it in their li\es. (Other interests — social, 
family, recreational — all were relegated to a secont1ar\' sphere.) 

hollowing Josef's death — she outlived him by nearly two 
decades — Anni often recalled the ways in which she had helped him; she 
was immensely pleased to have done so. For one thing, she would say with 
pride, with a slightly arrogant and superior look on her face, "I had to 
teach him manners. ' She, after all, came from a world where people served 
her; he did not. She could guide the son of a Westfalian laborer on how 
to behave in the fancy houses of art collectors. Then there was her 
knowledge of F'nglish, v\hich made such a difference — losef knew none — 
when they emigrated to America in 1933. This, too, reflected the class 
difference of their backgrounds. Anni had had an Irish nurse and governess. 
So she could teach him F.nglish, and also interpret for him. At Black 
Mountain, when a woman named Fmily Zastrow functioned as an inter- 
preter for Josef's teaching, Anni sat in on his class one day. Mrs. Zastrow 
made him sound too Teutonic, Anni felt: "If he said, 'Do have a look at 
this and see what you think,' she would say, 'And he insists that you think 
about it!'" Anni demanded that Mrs. Zastrow relinc|uish the job and that 
Josef do his best on his own, in English. 

Anni recounted a telling anecdote about Mrs. Zastrow and losef 
and herself. Mrs. Zastrow's son was a German government othcial. 1 lis 
doting mother regularly left pro-Nazi clippings all arcnind the Lee Hall 
living room, the main place where people congregated at Black Mountain. 
"I, of course, picked them up and threw them in the Hreplace," Anni told 
me, "while my honest and very careful Josef insisted, "You have no right 
to do this; they aren't yours.' .So how did he go about iti* He picked them 
up and put them into the back pages of the newspapers, which were 
thrown awav ever\' morniii". " 



147 




ijH. Anni Albers at the opening ot an 
exhibition of her work, the Renwick 
Gallery of the National Museum of 
American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 
Washington, D.C., June 12, 1985. 



She also rold a story at her own expense about teaching 
EngHsh to Josef. Once they were walking in a field near Black Mountain 
when Josef saw a sign for "Browns pasture," and inquired, "Was ist das, 
Anke: pasture?" Her answer was certain: "Oh that's very clear, Juppi, 
it's the opposite of future." 

Humor was one of Anni's salient traits, and it was often very 
dark. Once, when my wife was visiting her in the hospital, when 
Anni was recovering from a broken hip, and it seemed that the patient 
might go home the next day, Katharine said, "So, if I come tomorrow 
and you're not here . . ." Anni interrupted her with the instruction, 
"Send a wreath." When an exhibition of her work opened in 1985 at the 
Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., and a well-meaning visitor, who 
had come from New Haven just for the occasion, proudly presented her 
with a stiff and overarranged bouquet of flowers, the presenter's face aglow 
with pleasure, Anni, in a wheelchair, put them on her lap with the words, 
"For my casket." The woman stopped in her tracks. I am not sure if Anni 
even thought to let her off the hook with a simple thank you; she did 
not mind making people outside her chosen circle uncomfortable. 

In this respect, I once failed at all diplomatic efforts to get Anni 
to receive an extremely thoughtful and courteous curator from the 
Museum of Modern Art because she was in a bad mood that day — 
a combination of a digestive disorder and a phone call not having come 
in from a friend from whom she was eager to hear. She had no trouble 
being truly nasty to this amiable museum professional, who had made the 
journey just to see her, loved her work, and, additionally, would help her 
in the world. It is no wonder then that Philip Johnson, the central figure 
behind the Alberses' coming to America and the curator of Anni's first 
major museum show, at the Museum of Modern Art in 1949, told me that 
he had realized early on that Anni was not someone who would act in 
her own best interests, that she had no instinct for public relations. It was 
almost as if she associated gentility with fraudulence, good PR with the 
sort of artistic shilly-shallying that infuriated her in people like Johnson 
himself — someone both she and Josef considered a traitor to their artistic 
credo and to the Modernism he had once embraced through their friend 
and associate Mies van der Rohe. Alas, there was a side of Anni that was 
simply perverse — and not very nice. 



But when happy, Anni could be an angel. Back at Fox Press, there was 
trouble with the line-up of the brown in the second print in juxtaposition 
with the black. A long, tense hour followed. Proof after proof came 
through without the desired effect. I paced back and forth restlessly. Anni 
sat patiently. As she reviewed each sheet, she simply made further sugges- 
tions to the stripper and pressman, nodding her head "no" or smiling 
"yes" at their latest adjustments. Her object was to avoid white hairlines 
between shapes. What I knew was that there was something about this 
image, both in its systematization and lack of simple resolution, that was 
to resemble, or at least simulate, both the structure of gems and the nature 
of plant growth as elucidated by Goethe in his Metamorpljosis of Plants. 
Gems, Anni pointed out, depended on irregularity in their cellular struc- 
ture in order to be strong. Plant growth, according to the passages she 
cherished in Goethe, revealed a repetition of number systems; if there 
were three parts to the roots, there were also three parts to the stems and 
leaves. She had evoked both of these qualities in her initial design. But 
now she had to resolve the hairline problem; having achieved her well- 
thought-out design, she wanted to refine it according to the dictates of her 



148 



ever-demanding eye. There must also be a clarit)' and serenit}' as powerful 
as the playfulness and mystery inherent in this complex pattern achieved 
through printcrK' o\erlapping. The tools of the process were essential to 
the creation of the artwork, and now the\' had to be manipulated in 
compliance with the artists e\'e. It was a result that could be realized oiil\' 
by working in tandem, and no one could ha\c been more respectful of 
the technicians involved in the process. Without condescension, she treat- 
ed them not mereK' as coworkers but rather as heroes. 

We watched the pressman use his wrench to change the register 
a hair one way, then the other. Lining up some sections of the image to 
avoid the white gaps in various places created wider gaps in others. We 
tried blowing up one pattern with the camera — here the stripper partici- 
pated — but this destroyed the whole. I kept pacing. Finally the foreman 
suggested using the Rives BFK paper saved for the final prints; its thick- 
ness would make a difference because the flimsy trial paper was expanding. 
For Anni, it was like the working of thick and thin fibers, of jute with 
cellophane: a world of texture and reality she well knew, lb conserve the 
remaining Rives, we first ran the brown on some discards from the first 
print. Anni foimd that the red and brown together — this proofing of the 
second print on top of the discards from the first — looked so architectural 
that she took samples to show architects as possible patterns for tiled 
walls. And fortunately the heavier paper made the difference. Once the 
pressman had touched up the plate by hand while it was on the roller, 
thus getting rid of the few white lines that remained — with the artist's 
profound admiration and delight — she approved the line-up at last. 
He ran the print, and we were done. 

At lunch, Anni had praised the Italian bread, explaining that 
"Josef, a true Westfalian, lives for bread." While we were monitoring the 
afternoon printing session, my father had gone out to procure a loaf, 
which he handed to Anni along with some scratch pads as we were head- 
ing out to the car. "I am leaving with treasures," the former master of 
the Bauhaus said enthusiastically; she truly meant it. 

Our drive, however, made her anxious. She was a poor passenger 
at best — clearly in the habit of doing a lot of back-seat driving when 
Josef was at the wheel — and now we encountered torrential rains. These, 
Anni said, reminded her of Mexico, where they had gone fourteen times, 
initially when they were nearly penniless. Mexico had had an enormous 
influence on both of them; Anni said that "art was everv^where there": 
in peoples clothing, in their beads, in the paint trim on the adobe houses, 
in the cheapest country pottery. It was a visual world — more, perhaps, 
than a verbal one. I would not normally link Anni with Antonin Artaud, 
but given Artaud's passion for nonverbal communication, his emphasis on 
gesture and facial expression rather than text, his feeling for the exotic and 
ear for the voice of the ancient gods, and the role of Mexico in Artaud's 
life when he fled Paris in the 1930s, I have come to see Anni and Josef and 
Artaud as sophisticated European Moderns of the same camp — even if the 
peyote that flavored Artaud's every thought in the Mexican villages he 
visited, where he might well have walked by Anni and Josef would have 
been anathema to the artistic pair, who were so intent on control and 
rationalism. 

But although Anni was happ\' to have the sheets of rain evoke 
memories of I'enayuca and Oaxaca, they alarmed her; the woman who bv 
all accounts had been quite resolute in her flight from Nazi Ciermanv was 
visibly on the edge of panic. I offered to follow the lead of a few other 
cars and pull over to the side of the highway until the downpour let up. 



149 




179- Josef Albers, Paul Klee, (Guetary) 
Biarritz VIII 'zg, 1929. Collage of three 
photographs, mounted on board (detail). 
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 
Bethany. 











^^^^V^BI^'^*^^/ l^^^l 


ifts*- 











180. Paul Klee, Gifts for I {Gabe fiir I), 
1928. Tempera on gessoed canvas mounted 
on wood, 40 X 55.9 cm (15 K X 22 inches). 
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 
Gift of James Thrall Soby. 



"Please," Anni gently implored. Under the shelter of an overpass, I turned 
off the motor. 

Anni's face betrayed considerable relief "You deserve a reward," 
she said in a tone more jocular than patronizing. "Well, I know you've 
been wanting to know about Patil Klee. I think I will tell you the story of 
his fiftieth birthday." 

It was 1929. Klee, Anni told me, was her "god at the time"; he was 
also her next-door neighbor. Although the Swiss painter was, in her eyes, 
aloof and unapproachable — "like Saint Christopher carrying the weight 
of the world on his shoulders" — she admired him tremendously. She had 
even acquired one of his watercolors — the purchase having been a rare 
public admission of her family's wealth (she told me that she had been so 
embarrassed by the appearance at the Dessau Bauhaus of her uncles in a 
Hispano Stiiza that she had begged them to leave immediately) — out of 
one of the exhibitions in which Klee tacked up his most recent work in a 
corridor of the new Bauhaus building. As her god approached his major 
birthday, Anni heard that three other students in the weaving workshop 
were hiring a small plane from the Junkers aircraft plant, not far away, so 
that they could have this mystical, other-worldly man's birthday presents 
descend to him from above; he was beyond having gifts arrive on the 
earthly plane. 

Klee's presents were to arrive in a large package shaped like an 
angel. Anni made the curled hair for it out of tiny, shimmering brass 
shavings. Other Bauhauslers made the gifts the angel would carry: a print 
from Lyonel Feininger, a lamp from Marianne Brandt, some small objects 
from the wood workshop. 

Anni was not originally scheduled to be on the small Junkers 
aircraft from which the angel was to descend, but when she arrived at the 
airfield with her three friends, the pilot deemed her so light that he 
invited her to get on board. For all of them, it was the first flight. As the 
cold October air penetrated her coat and the pilot joked with the young 
weavers by doing complete turnabouts as they huddled together in the 
open cockpit, Anni was so obsessed with abstract art that, rather than 
responding with fear, what struck her most was the sudden awareness 
of a new visual dimension. She had been living on one optical plane, and 
now saw from a very different vantage point. 

She served the mission by spotting Klee's house next door to 
hers and Josef's, in the row of masters' houses a short walk from the main 
building. As planned, they let out the gift. It landed with a bit of a 
crash. But Klee was pleased nonetheless — he would memorialize the 
unusual presents and their delivery in a painting. Josef, however, was less 
impressed. Later that afternoon he asked Anni if she had seen the 
idiots flying around overhead. Anni smiled mischievously as she recalled 
this. "I told him I was one of them," she said with her usual tone of 
unperturbed defiance. 



Although in the course ol time Anni came to remember Joset as indifferent 
to her needs and comfort, when we pulled into the driveway of their house 
after completing our drive when the torrents lessened to mere rain, he 
opened the automatic garage door as we made the turn in order to spare 
his wife any unnecessary steps in the rain. He must have been waiting at 
the window for quite some time. I he two of them were ebullient as she 
handed him some prints and the bread; their life together, austere and iso- 
lated as it may have been, seemed a panoply of pleasures at that moment. 
Fhey were, of course, both people for whom the idea of survival 



had real meaning — iniiiallv because ot the struggles ot the Bauhaus; 
then the horrible realities oi Nazi Germany; after that, even once the\- were 
in safer territory, the intense financial pressure at Black Mountain and, 
subsequently, hallowing Joscts unhappy departure from Yale; now the 
vicissitudes of old age — and Anni's safe return in the storm afforded them 
palpable relief. In flict, this may be one of the reasons that Anni took par- 
ticular delight in aborting plans entirely because of bad weather. She once 
told me that breaking a date was one of life's great pleasures, comparable 
only to returning something to a department store. Dressed and ready to 
go for an outing to New York, only to have a phone call suggesting that 
because of inclement weather the meeting in the cit)' be rescheduled, 
Anni, rather than showing disappointment, looked like someone who had 
been given an unexpected treat. In one of the letters she sent to josef in 
Ulm, she wrote, with regard to a lecture scheduled half an hour awav, 
"To my enormous pleasure m\' talk in Bridgeport was canceled because of 
a new snowstorm we are having." Of course there were other factors as 
well; two days earlier she had written to Josef, "The Bridgeport group, 
Weavers Guild, makes me feel bad. Everything they touch they do wrong- 
ly, even my name is spelled wrongly, Annie Alkers of N.Y.! Think 111 
speak about Quality there, if I can get my thoughts straight." 



The day following my trip with Anni to Fox Press, the pressman and strip- 
per told me that it was too bad that all of our customers were not like 
Anni. Unlike the advertising men and purchasing agents, who said that 
they did not care what the machine could or could not do as long as they 
got what they wanted, she worked in tandem with the equipment. "The 
lady with the cane," the bindery foreman added, "really liked the shrink 
wrap too. She figured out right away how it does the corners." 

in her person she had brought into the printing plant some of 
the same poetry and lightness that demarcate her artwork. And in keeping 
with the ideals that Gropius had established at the Bauhaus, the pioneer- 
ing art school he had opened in Weimar more than fifty years earlier, she 
had rendered nil the boundaries between craft and art. She had allowed 
machinery and creativity to have a common voice, and technical restraints 
and possibilities to be the aid, not the foe, of inspiration. The practical 
and the spiritual were one. 

Indeed, for the rest of her life, even after Josef and all the others 
had died, the last living Bauhausler kept the vision alive — as her art will 
do forever. 



Notes 

1. I Ills ir.msl.uion oi the sixth-century bc 
Chinese philosopher is quoted from 

a handwritten note in Anni's papers at 
the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation; 
it may bc her own translation from a 
German source. 

2. This and all subsequeni staiciiicnts by 
Anil] are troiii conversations with the 
author that took place in 1974 and 1975 
while the author was interviewing the artist 
on tape in preparation hir a book devoted 
to her work. 



3. Camilla Lyons, a pre-nicd student at 
Yale College as well as an art historian, 
provided this information in a memo ot 
Nov. 19, 1998. 

4. Bertrand Russell. The Conquest of 
Huppinea (London: Horace Liveright. 
1930), p. 118. 

5. All letters are in 1 he |osel .md .\mii 
Albers Foundation archives and are i|uoied 
as they appear. 




181. Anni Albers with Nicholas Fox Weber 
and Fox //, in the living room at 80S 
Birchwood Drive, Orange, Connecticut. 
1981. 



151 



Anni Albers 
1899-1994 

Pandora Tabatabai Asbaghi 



182. Anni Albers, ca. 1908. 




Anni Albers left us a compact but 
pure legacy that comprises not only 
her artworks but also her writings 
and other statements, which, 
together, provide a clear guideline 
for thinking about design and 
art. An artist, designer, writer, and 
teacher, for most of the century 
she was an interested if somewhat 
detached observer of political, 
industrial, and artistic develop- 
ments. Her curiosity was that of 
a true pioneer, and her work 
consistently reveals a deep respect 
for the universal truths of the 
past as well as a search for solutions 
only possible in the present. 
Connecting craft to industry, uni- 
fying art with design, generously 
sharing her learning with others, 
she made few claims about her 
own originality, speaking instead 
of rediscovery, re-invention. 



Albers rarely expressed regret 
about the necessity of leaving 
Germany in 1933 for an uncertain 
future in the United States; 
rather, she preferred to dwell on 
the consequent opportunities that 
came to her and Josef As they 
explored Mexico and the American 
Southwest, they were both deeply 
affected by the scale of the land- 
scape, by the aesthetic marvels of 
the indigenous art and architecture, 
and, in Mexico, by the beauty 
of the ancient culture that seemed 
to grow in the ground in the 
lorm of the tiny Pre-Columbian 
artifacts that they collected with a 
shared passion. 

Was it Albers's physical dis- 
ability or the social and cultural 
environment of her past that never 
quite allowed her to move freely 
and express herself with complete 
independence? Under her elegance 
and modesty, and despite the 
sure hand and voice in her art and 



15^ 




her writing, there lay an ambition 
for greater recognition that was 
at odds with her rechisive nature. 
Here, an accoimt ot Albers's 
hfe, arranged around the artists 
words along with those oi people 
who knew her well or who have 
studied her art, proves that her 
legacy to us stands alone and is 
worthy of our consideration today, 
not only for its historic value 
but also tor what it can continue 
to teach us about the place oi 
art in our dailv lives. 



1899-1921 

Anni Albers was born 
Annelise Else Frieda Fleischmann 
at 5 Lessingstrasse in the 
Charlottenburg section oi Berlin 
on June 12, 1899. She was the 
eldest of three children born to 
Siegfried Fleischmann (1873-1963) 
and Toni Ullstein Fleischmann 
(1877-1946). "[When she was 
growing up] her mother's family, 
the Ullsteins of publishing fame, 
seemed slightly commercial to her, 
her father's (a furniture manufac- 
turer) more aristocratic."' Albers's 
brother, Hans Farman (born in 
1909), who changed his name from 
Fleischmann when he moved to 
the United States in 1936, notes 
that the women of the Ullstein 
family were well educated, but 
were expected to "get married on 
their own . . . whereas the sons 
inherited the [family] fortune."' 
Hans's wife, Elizabeth (Betry), 
notes, "[Albers] swam against the 



183. Hans Farman (Fleischmann) 
photographed by Josef Albers. 



1930, 



184. Lotte Benfey (nee Fleischmann), 
ca. 1920. 



153 




185. Siegfried Fleischmann, 1930, 
photographed by Josef Albers. 

186. Toni Ullstein Fleischmann, 
ca. 1940. 



Stream, she was rebellious and she 
resented her mother. . . . Anni had 
some kind of artistic longings and 
leanings in her. Her family, in 
her mind . . . didn't feel the artistic 
leanings as she did. "'Around 1912 
the family moved to a large apart- 
ment at 7 Meinekestrasse, near the 
Kurfiirstendamm. Albers's sister, 
Lotte Benfey (1900-1987), recalled, 
"We had eight or nine rooms. 
There was the music room that 
was only used for parties. . . . There 
was a room for Anni's painting. . . . 
Opa [Siegfried Fleischmann] had 
furniture and antiques. . . . 
He loved to go to art museums."^ 

When Albers was an adoles- 
cent, her mother arranged for her 
to have an art tutor. Later, from 
1916 to 1919, she studied painting 
with Martin Brandenburg, an 
Impressionist painter. 

[In my] early teens. . . . I saiv 
portraits that [Oskar] Kokoschka 
had drawn and I thought they were 



beautifuL that the character of a 
person came out much better than in 
a photograph, for instance. . . . I 
made a terrible [portrait] of my 
mother, ivhich I took under my arms 
with my mother to try to get to 
Dresden, where Kokoschka lived, 
and see if he had classes where I 
could learn. And he had one look at 
that and said, "Why do you paint?" 
I was fifteen or sixteen so that was 
the smashing ansiver and that was 
the end of that.' 

In 1920 Albers attended the 
Kunstgewerbeschule (school of 
applied arts) in Hamburg. After two 
months she was disappointed with 
the learning program and sought 
out other sorts of instruction. 



154 




1922-24 

Fortunately a leaflet came my 
way from the Bauhaus [on which] 
there was a print by Feininger, a 
cathedral, and I thought that was 
ver)' beautiful and also at that time, 
through some connections — some- 
body told me — [that it] was a new 
experimental place. . . . I thought, 
" That looks more like it, " so this is 
what I tried." 

"In a rented room, with a bath 
available only once a week, the 
young Berliner who was used to 
a seamstress and laundress applied 
to the experimental school. She 
was rejected at first, but was 
admitted on her second attempt."" 

Albers entered the mandatory 
Vorkurs (preliminary course) at 
the Bauhaus on April 21, 1922, 
studying with Cieorg Muche in the 
first semester and with Johannes 
Itten in the second. 

Well the Bauhaus today is 
thought of always as a school, a very 



adventurous and i)iteresting one, to 
which you went and were taught 
something; that it was a readymade 
spirit. But when I got there in 1^22 
that wasn't true at all. It was in a 
great muddle and there was a great 
searchijig going on fom all sides. 
And people like Klee and Kaiuinisky 
weren't recognized as the g>-eat masters. 
They were starting to find their 
way. And this kind of general 
searching was very exciting. And . . . 
this is what I called the "creative 
vacuum. "' 

Ihe Bauhaus leaflet that 
attracted Albers to Weimar had 
been written by Walter Ciropius, 
the founder of this new school of 
art and design. It stated that "any 
person of good repute, without 
regard to age or sex, whose prcNious 
education is deemed adequate by 
the Council of Masters, will be 
admitted, as far as space permits."' 



18-. Anni Albers, ca. 1923, 
phomgr.iphed by 
Lutia Moholy-Nag)'. 



155 




i88. Georg Muche and members of the 
weaving workshop at the Bauhaus, 
Weimar, ca. 1923. Anni Albers is at the 
extreme right. 



But despite the school's apparent 
commitment to gender equality, 
Gropius wrote to a woman who 
applied for admission in 1920, "It 
is not advisable, in our experience, 
that women work in the heavy 
craft areas such as carpentry and so 
forth. For this reason a women's 
section has been formed at the 
Bauhaus which works particularly 
with textiles; bookbinding and 
pottery also accept women. We are 
fundamentally opposed to the edu- 
cation of women as architects."'" 
The entering students had to 
enter a workshop and the workshops 
I thought I might try all weren't 
quite suited for me. For instance, I 
didn't want wall painting because 
I didn't like climbing on ladders 
and I didn't want metal workshop 
because it is so hard and pointed. 
I didn 't want woodworking where 
you had to lift heavy beams, and 
there was one left that was a glass 



workshop and there was already 
somebody in there [Josef Albers] 
with whom I would have loved to 
be in that workshop but they didn't 
allow a second person because 
there was not chance of any kind 
of further work there. " 

So after completing the 
Vorkurs, Albers reluctantly entered 
the weaving workshop in 1923. 

My beginning was far fivm 
what I had hoped for: fate put into 
my hands limp threads! Threads to 
build a future? But distinst turned 
into belief and I was on my way. '"' 

Albers credited Gunta Stolzl 
for most of her early training, 
claiming that she had "almost an 
animal feeling for textiles." 

/ learned fi-om Gunta, who was 
a great teacher. We sat down and 
tried to do it. Sometimes we sat 
together and tried to solve problems 
of co}istruction." 

In the weaving workshop, 
Albers assisted in dyeing yarns and 
made her first wall hangings and 
yard fabrics. She and her fellow 



156 




students participated in the first 
official Bauhaus exhibition in 1923, 
furnishing the experimental Haus 
am Horn with textiles. 

Alberss first published writing 
appeared in 1924, as part oi Gropius's 
drive to elicit public support 
for the Bauhaus. In it, she wrote: 
The Bauhaus attempts to give the 
house what it needs today — 
functional form. . . . Its goals are the 
clear structure of things, suitable 
materials, and a new type oj beauty. 
This new beauty is not style. . . . 
Today a thing is beautifiil when its 
form is in agreement with its func- 
tion, and when it has been made of 
well-chosen materials." 



1925-26 

In 1925, three years after 
Albers first met Josef Albers at the 
Bauhaus in Weimar, they were 
married. By that time Josef had 
advanced rapidly at the school, 
from student in the glass workshop 
to instructor of the Vorkurs in 
1923, and to junior Bauhaus 
Master in 1925. They traveled to 
Italy lor their honeymoon. 

"It was in the . . . few years 
after their wedding that their art 
work bore the closest resemblance. 
. . . Each was responding to new 
possibilities of abstraction, to the 
idea of playfulness with the figure- 
ground relationship, to the comforts 
afforded by control. Right angles, 
solid expanses of color, and 
pure bands of black became part 
of their new language. "'~ 

Ihat same vear the Bauhaus 
moved from \*^cimar to its new 
Modernist glass-walled structure in 
Dessau, designed by Gropius. But 
the aesthetic harmony that 
Gropius imagined would flourish 



189. Josef Albers in his studio at the 
Bauhaus, Dessau, 1919. photographed 
by Umbo. 

190. Ann! and losct Albers on a balcony 
of the Bauhaus building, Dessau, ca. 1926, 
photographed by Marianne Brandt. 

191. Josef Albers, stained-glass window, 
Ullstein Printing Works, Templehof, 
Berlin, 1927. 



157 





192. Josef Albers, Anni Sommer 25, 1923. 
Collage of two photographs, 
mounted on cardboard, 29.7 x 41.7 cm 
(11 "At X 16 /« inches). 
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 
Bethany JAF: PH-423. 



at the Bauhaus proved to be an 
elusive goal. 

Concerned ivith form and ivith 
the shape of objects surrounding 
us — that is, ivith design — we will 
have to look at the things we have 
made. With the evidence of our 
work before us, we cannot escape its 
verdict. Today it tells us ofseparate- 
ness, of segregation and fragmentation, 
if I interpret rightly. 

For here we find two distinct 
points of departure: the scientific 
and technological, and the artistic. 
Too often these approaches arrive at 
separate results instead of at a single, 
all-inclusive form that embodies 
the whole of our needs: the need 
for the functioning of a thing and 
the need for an appearance that 
responds to our sense of form."' 

In 1926 Albers began to 
work on the double and jacquard 
looms. Color illustrations of her 



wall hangings were published in 
the German journal Offset 
and in Tapis et Tissus, a portfolio 
selected by Sonia Delaunay.'^ 

In Dessau, the Bauhaus's focus 
shifted from craft to production. 

A most curious change took 
place when the idea of a practical 
purpose, a purpose aside from the 
purely artistic one, suggested itself to 
this group of weavers. Such a 
thought, ordinarily in the fore- 
ground, had not occurred to them, 
having been so deeply absorbed in 
the problems of the material itself 
and the discoveries of unlimited 
ivays of handling it. This considera- 
tion of usefulness brought about a 
profoundly difrerent conception. A 
shift took place from the free play 
with forms to a logical building of 
structures.'" 

Women students occupied 
an ambiguous space at the Bauhaus. 
"[In] the widening polarization 
between industry and craft . . . 



158 




women were identified with the 
latter. As mechanization and 
industriahzation increased, the role 
of the designer gained in status 
and attracted males. Women 
lost ground. . . . The ambivalence 
of the weavers is nowhere 
better expressed than in their 
own writing.""' 

It is interesting . . . to observe 
that in ancient myths from many 
parts of the world it was a goddess, a 
female deity, who brought the inven- 
tion of weaving to mankind. When 
we realize that weaving is primarily 
a process of structural organization 
this thought is startling, for today 
thinking in terms of structure seems 
closer to the inclination of men than 
women. . . . Later, with weaving 
traditions established, embellishing 
as one of the weaver's tasks moved 
to the foreground and thus the 
feminine role in it has become natural 
in our eyes." 



1927-32 

In 1927 the weaving workshop 
students asked Paul Klee to teach 
a class in design. Klee developed a 
program specifically geared toward 
weaving, which he taught until 
1 93 1, when he resigned from the 
Bauhaus. "Klee's repeated insistence 
that the ultimate form of a 
work was not as important as the 
process leading to it . . . aimed 
at inculcating a specific way of 
perceiving the world. It proposed 
to the student what Klee himself 
believed and made the basis of 
his work: that the wellsprings 
of human and natural creation are 
essentially one; that art and science 
have their roots in the selfsame 
order of things. . . . The process 
Klee taught, while rationalistic, 
was ultimately nonrarional."" 

Although Albers revered Klee, 
she later admitted, One of his 
classes was so far over my head that 
I didn't understand anything and 



193. Josef Albers, Klee im Atelier, 

Dessau XI '29, 1929. 

Collage o{ six photographs, 

mounted on cardboard, 29.7 x 41.7 cm 

(11 %. X i6/» inches). 

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 

Bethany JAF: PH-2. 



159 





194. 195. and 196. Josef and Anni Albers, 
Dessau, ca. 1925. 

197. Anni and Josef Albers, 
Oberstdorf, Germany, 1927-28. 

198. Josef and Anni Albers, 
ca. 1935. 



had to leave. I was not yet ready for 
Klee and his thinking." 

Also in 1927 Albers designed 
wall coverings and curtains for 
the Theater Cafe Altes in Dessau 
and the curtain for a theater in 
Oppeln. These projects required 
new approaches. 

It is really interesting to concen- 
trate like an architect has to concen- 
trate on the functioning of a house, 
so I enjoyed concentrating on what 
[a] specific material demanded. I 
developed a series of wall-covering 
materials, ivhich at the time I did 
it was nonexistent really. And I tried 
to make them so that they were 
partly even light-refecting, that they 
could be brushed off, that they could 
be fixed straight and easily on the 
wall IV ith out pulling into different 
shapes. So a specific task sets you 
a very interesting way of dealing 
with your choice of material, with 
your technique." 

In July 1927 the Alberses took 
a trip to the C'anary Islands. 
/ was always the one who thought 



of [travel] when we were still at the 
Bauhaus — and married not for a 
very long time. This was wonderful 
to be away from the parents' choice 
of vacations — when ive always went 
to Bavaria to winter in one of the 
wettest corners, Oberstdorf. And I 
thought [instead] sun and sea and 
so on. 1 found a banana boat and 
we went to Tenerife, to the Canaries. 
. . . It was such a small boat and 
it took three weeks to go there. It 
was quite shaky and there were only 
twelve people.''' 

Despite Albers's dislike of 
Oberstdorf she and Josef did 
vacation there in the winter of 
1927-28. Albers's sister, Lotte, 
recalled, "I went twenty-lour times 
to Oberstdorf in Bavaria. ... It 
was what you did for four weeks 
every year — you took the cook and 
the governess and lived in a peasant 
house. The peasants moved out 
to the barn. . . . Anni didn't like to 
go climbing — she would stay 
at home and paint and read.""' 



160 




In 1928 Gropius left the 
Bauhaus to return to private 
architectural practice, and Hannes 
Meyer, a Swiss architect, took 
his place. Herbert Bayer, Marcel 
Breuer, and Lucia and Laszlo 
Moholy-Nagy resigned in the wake 
of Gropius's departure. I he 
Alberses moved into the master's 
house vacated b\' the Moholy-Nagys 
and became neighbors of the 
Klees and the Kandinskys. Albers 
became an assistant in the weaving 
workshop under Stolzl's direction, 
and from September to December 
the following year and again in 
the fall of 1 93 1 she replaced Stolzl 
as acting director. 

In the 1929 summer recess, 
the Alberses traveled to Avignon, 
Geneva, Biarritz, and Paris and 
in August to Barcelona for the 
International l^xposition, where 
I.udwig Mies van der Rohe 
and Lilly Reich had designed the 
German exhibits. 

Also in 1929 Albers designed a 
wall-covering material for the new 



auditoriimi of the Allgemeinen 
Deutschen CiewerLschaftsbundes- 
schule in Bernau, for which Meyer 
was the architect. 

Hannes Meyer was building a 
large school . . . and in the auditori- 
um there was an echo. . . . And he 
asked me if I could think of a ivay 
oj subduing this echo, if we could 
make a textile that would be suit- 
able. The usual solution at that time 
in the '20s was that you put I'eli'et on 
the walls. The little fibers absorbed the 
sound. And of course if the velvet 
was to be at all practical in a room 
used by hundreds of people so very 
often it would have to be a dark 
color. Otherwise you could see all the 
marks of fingerprints and so on. . . . 

And I had an idea that if I 
made a surface that was made 
out of a kind of cellophane — and 
cellophane just was coming in 
as a new material — we had been in 
Florence, Italy, and I had bought 
a little crocheted cap made oj this 



199. Josef and Anni Albers 

(rear center) with Bauhaus friends, 

ca. 1925. 



161 




zoo. Walter Gropius, 1930, photographed 
by Josef Albers. 

201. Wall-covering material for the 
auditorium of the Allgemeinen 
Deutschen Gewerkschaftsbundesschule, 
Bernau, Germany, 1929 (see cat. no. 127), 
showing the reverse side with label 
indicating the reflection of light as 
analyzed by Zeiss Ikon, Berlin. 



material. And I unraveled it and 
used it for the first attempt . . . and 
this velvet quality of absorption I put 
in an interesting construction into 
the back of this tnaterial. So it had 
on the surface a light-reflecting 
quality and in the back the sound- 
absorbing quality. 

And this went into production. 
I don't think it was made on machines, 
but it was made in workshops 
that made yard goods. And it was 
used for this auditorium. And it 
worked. . . .And the Zeiss Ikon 
Works in Germany made a kind of 
analysis of how the light-reflecting 
surface worked. . . . So this was 
quite an intriguing kind of textile 
engineering.'" 

Albers later .said ot this material 
that it was something I am 
really happy to sign with my name, 
for that was a completely new 
approach.'' 

Albers was awarded her 
Bauhaus diploma lor the wall- 
covering material for the Bernau 



auditorium in 1930. The same 
year two of Albers's works were 
shown in Ausstellung Moderner 
Bildivirkereien, an exhibition 
of Modern textiles. During the 
summer she traveled with Josef to 
San Sebastian, Spain, and to the 
Tyrol, Ascona, and Lake Maggiore 
in Italy. Their travels are docu- 
mented in Josefs photographs. In 
August 1930 Mies van der Rohe 
replaced Meyer as director of the 
Bauhaus, and appointed Reich as 
the new director of the weaving 
workshop. 

At the important Deutsche 
Bauausstellung (German building 
exhibition) in Berlin in July 1931, 
Albers's work was awarded the 
Stadt Berlin Prize. 

In October 1932 the Bauhaus 
was forced to close in Dessau after 
the National Socialist party came 
to power in the local government 
and cut funding to the school. 
Mies van der Rohe reopened 
the school as a private institution 
in Berlin, and for the next six 



162 



Germans To Tench Art Near Here 




^ M-hool mere until HtUor't poUclri oaujcO 
lD«d lb« IacuUt of BUok UouniAln coUcfa 
t <l«p»rUnmi In Uie coll«fe 



Germans On Faculty At 
Black Mountain School 



Josef And Frau Albers 

Named Instructors In 

Art There 

with VtOStmov JoMf and Pnu Al- 
ten. ol DeoMU. GcrmADr u lojtrue- 
tots. •□ ait dcpftftmcnt hai been 
csUblUlitcl at Bl*ek Mountain col- 
let:* at Blue RItJgo ntMt hfw, 

pTOlcasor and Frsu Alb«r* > ver; 
until rrctntly mcinb«n ol Ibe tac- 
ultT Of the Baubaua adiool In Dt*- 



»u. which wma world ramou* t 

ol art Tbe Kboot wu toioe 
close bK*ua« ot the natloual 
CAtlODbl policies ol the 

u'rro brought to Black MountAlct col- 
l«S«- tLe ODlj c«U»g« In tttc Uoltcd 
Statu uQdcr direct faculty cootroi, 
by lUo New York Muaeum of- Art. 




months — during which time the 
Alberses moved to Berlin, where 
they hved in an apartment at 
28 Sensenburgerallee in the suburb 
of Charlottenburg — it operated 
from a disused factory building in 
the Steiglitz neighborhood. On 
April II, 1933, the school was again 
forced to close after the National 
Socialists gained control of the 
national government. Mies van 
der Rohe protested and obtained 
official consent to reopen the 
school four months later, but the 
conditions that accompanied this 
permission were so onerous that 
on August 10, 1933, he announced 
the decision of the faculty to close 
the school officially and finally. 
"Anni at age thirty-four and 
her husband at age forr\'-five were 
sucidenly without jobs and had 
little hope of continuing their 
work in an atmosphere rapidly 
becomin" hostile to abstract art."'" 



1933-36 

As the Bauhaus was forced to 
close, Black Mountain College, 
a new, small, experimental college, 
near Asheville, North Carolina, 
was searching for someone to head 
its art program. Philip Johnson 
and Edward M.M. Warburg, both 
fledgling curators at the new 
Museum of Modern Art in New 
York, learned of this through 
Theodore (Ted) Dreier, one of the 
schools founders. Johnson and 
Warburg had both visited the 
Dessau Bauhaus, and Johnson was 
in Berlin in the summer of 1933. 

Philip Johnson, who now has a 
very great name, then we knew as a 
somewhat spoiled, ifiteresting student 
from Harvard. . . . He . . . was 
in Berlin . . . and I had made 
experiments with different materials, 
strawlike materials. . . . He was 
visiting Lilly Reich, who . . . was 
practically in charge of the weaving 
workshop. . . . Philip was there 
[at Lilly Reich's apartment], and he 
was shown materials, and somehow 



202. Asheville Citizen, December 5, 1933. 

203. Josef and Anni Albers on the steps 
of their Uving quarters at the Blue Ridge 
Campus of Black Mountain College, 

ca. 1937. 



163 




204- Anni Albers, Black Mountain 
College, ca. 1935. 

205. Josef Albers on the deck outside 
the dining hall at the Lake Eden campus 
of Black Mountain College, ca. 1935. 

206. Student dance on the verandah 

of Robert E. Lee Hall at the Blue Ridge 
campus of Black Mountain College, 
ca. 1937, photographed by Josef Albers. 



in the doorway I met him at Lilly 
Reich's, and I said, "Oh, you are here. 
Would you be interested in corning 
to a cup of tea with us!' I would love 
to show you also some of my things. " 
And he came in the afternoon and 
I put out my wall hangings. They 
were all big, and they all had to 
do with practical ideas, strawlike 
material that could be brushed off or 
cleaned in some specific way, and 
with various transparencies and so on. 

And he looked at them and 
said, "Now who made them? I saw 
these at Lilly Reich's. " 

And I said, "No, they are mine." 

And he said, "But she never 
told me about that. "... 

And in the door when he left, 
he said, "Would you like to come to 
America? " 

And it was just the high time 
for us to leave. For instance, the 
Bauhaus was closed. I had the wrong 
kind of background in Hitler's 
ideas and so on and we said, "Well, 



of course. "And it was after six weeks 
we got a letter asking us to come to 
this neivly founded college."' 

On August 17, 1933, Johnson 
wrote to the Alberses, inviting 
them, on behalf of the trustees of 
Black Mountain College, to come 
to the United States. Warburg 
agreed to fund their steamship 
tickets. Johnson recalls, "It was the 
combination of Eddie knowing 
about Black Mountain and the 
idea that the AJberses might want 
to come to America to work. . . . 
So I said, 'Let's get them over.' 
It seemed the most natural thing 
in the world. I think he [Eddie] 
paid all the money out."'" The 
couple arrived in New York on 
the S.S. Europa on November 24, 
1933. Josef wrote to Kandinsky, 
"We were met by four Bauhaus 
colleagues. We were twelve hours 
late. Four hotels had been booked. 



164 





Four journalists were waiting to 
interview us. First niglit dinner at 
the Dreiers' . . . with Miss Katherine 
Dreier. Very lively. . . . Museum 
of Modern Art very good. Brancusi 
exhibition very beautiful. Arranged 
by Duchamp who we met on this 
occasion. A wonderful person."" 

Albers spoke to the press on 
behaU o{ Josef, who was not con- 
versant in English: He says that i>i 
this country at last he will find a 
free atmosphere. . . . He says that 
art must have freedom in which to 
grow, and that is no longer possible 
in Germany. There a professor must 
teach only the art that the govern- 
ment thinks is forwarding the 
German ideal of government." 

The New York Sim reported: 
"Tall, slim and vivacious, Frau 
Albers looks more like a student 
than like the leader of a movement, 
and speaks English slowly and 
solemnly much as a child recites a 
poem 'by heart.' . . . Today she is 



known not only tor the uniqueness 
of her designs, which are woven 
directly 'into the material' but for 
her experiments with materials.' It 
is not enough that textiles should 
be pretty!', she exclaimed, looking 
almost fearfully at the somewhat 
lavish tapestries of the hotel lounge. 
'Most commercial houses take their 
designs off the paper, nicln't with 
no regard for the fitness of that 
design for a given place. We of 
Bauhaus are not hostile to industry 
but we create patterns close to the 
materials and at the same time 
related to the use of the textile.'"" 

Speaking of the Alberses' 
arrival at Black Mountain, I^arbara 
(Bobbie) Dreier, wife of led I^reier, 
recalls that Josef "had 1 hanksgiving 
dinner with my husband s parents 
in Brooklyn Heights the night 
before. 1 hey put him on the train 
with his nice wife and . . . they 



207 and 208. Anni Albers in the cornficlcls, 
lilack Mountain College, ca. 1937. 



165 



» \,r> 



♦ > 



V ^ 




209. Anni Albers with Ted and Bobbie 
Dreier en route to Florida and Cuba, 1935. 



came. We settled them in and they 
adjusted to the completely differ- 
ent life that they found there in this 
great big Robert E. Lee Hall."" 

We arrived on November 24 , 
I think, ip33. Just when the 
Chancellery in Germany burned 
and everything was in ruins . . . and 
then we were not knowing very 
much. . . . And so we got there and 
after three or four days . . . there was 
a big festival at the college, ivhich 
had only fifty or sixty students, . . . a 
great event that was Thanksgiving. 
Arid we thought it was really a day to 
be thankfitl for and ive celebrated it." 

Albers was appointed Assistant 
Professor of Art, and Josef was 
appointed Professor of Art. 

It was interesting to see a new 
life, and interesting to see a professor 
with a hammer in his hand. This 
didn't exist in Europe. There a profes- 
sor was a professor.'" 

"Drawing upon the early 
Bauhaus model, Albers promoted a 
teaching method of 'playful pro- 
ductivity' She felt that srudents 



progress from unencumbered 
experimentation with materials . . . 
to work that serves functional or 
aesthetic ends."'" "Although there 
were similar weaving programs at 
the Institute of Design, Cranbrook 
Academy of Art, and the Art 
Institute of Chicago, the Black 
Mountain program produced 
distinctive textiles. Exhibited 
throughout the United States, they 
were recognized for their emphasis 
on the thread rather than purely 
coloristic or textural effects and 
for their limited range of colors, 
primarily black, white, and natural 
fibers. They reflected Anni Albers's 
aesthetic that 'textiles are serving 
objects that should be modest 
in appearance and blend into the 
background.'""* 

The Alberses rapidly became 
part of the Black Mountain College 
community. "Black Mountain 
wunderbar" Albers wrote in 
a letter dated December 3, 1933, 



166 




carbon copies oi which were 
received by several of their friends 
in Germany.' 

Barely a year later, in December 
1934, Josef was invited to lecture 
in Cuba. Bobbie Dreier recalls, 
"Clarita Porcet . . . had invited 
them to go to Cuba, and we 
offered to drive them down [to 
Florida]. . . . We had a sort of a 
Christmas vacation [and then] we 
took them all the way to Key West 
to put them on a boat. And they 
said, 'Well, whv don't you come, 
for goodness sake? We can take 
the car over and everything.' And 
we went. "' "When in 1934 
the Alberses drove through Florida 
with their new good friends 
Theodore and Barbara Dreier en 
route to Havatia, it occurred to 
Anni, that the two couples might 
venture toward the source of 
[Pre-Columbian] art and travel to 
Mexico the following year."" 

In the summer of 1935 the 
Alberses made the first of fourteen 
visits to Mexico, traveling to 



Oaxaca and Acapulco with Ted 
and Bobbie in the Dreiers 
secondhand Model A convertible. 

We have had a wotulerful sion- 
mer here in Mexico. . . . we arrived 
here in our car after traveling for 
seven days, at times through high 
mountains. Mexico City is at 
an altitude of 2,^00 meters, so even 
though it is so far south it is 
marvelously cool, a truly refreshing 
climate. And a country for art, like 
no other, wonderfd ancient art, 
barely yet discovered . . . a>ul much 
new art, frescoes: you surely know 
Rivera, Orosco [sic], and others, then 
Merida, the talented abstract painter, 
Crespo — art is the most important 
thing in this country. Imagine that. '■ 

I hey became collectors of 
I're-C'olumbian art: 
During our nmny trips to Mexico — 
jourteen in all, some of three months' 
duration and dating back as far 
as 19^6 [sic] — we had gathered here 
and there material covering some 



210 and ill. Boliliic I^rcicr .md Anni 
Albers, 1955. 



167 




212. Anni Albers and her father, Siegfried 
Fleischmann, Mexico, 1937, photographed 
by Josef Albers. 



of the diverse early cultures of this 
ancient country. Our first small 
pieces came to us on our visits to 
prehistoric sites fom little boys 
offering them to us through the car 
ivindow, just as turkeys and goats 
were also held up for sale. As we 
examined the fragments of pottery, 
which included subtly formed heads 
and, alas, usually broken figurines, 
we could not believe that here in 
our hands ivere century-old 
Pre-Columbian pieces found by the 
peasants when plowing their fields. 
We showed our little treasures to the 
late George Valliant, the authority 
on Mexican archaeology, who was 
excavating at the time on the outskirts 
of Mexico City, and he confirmed 
their authenticity. Yes, here was 
a country whose earth still yielded 
such art.''' 



1937-38 

In 1937 the Alberses put 
together an exhibition of Mayan 
art at Black Mountain College. 

On March 17 ot that year 
Albers went to New York and met 
Walter and Ise Gropius as they 
arrived in the United States. (Walter 
Gropius was taking up an appoint- 
ment at the Graduate School 
of Design at Harvard University, 
Cambridge, Massachusetts.) 

Albers's parents arrived in 
Veracruz, Mexico, on June 18, 
meeting the Alberses (who were 
on their third Mexican trip) 
in Mexico City the following day. 
Toni Fleischmann wrote in her 
diary, "Now I am eagerly looking 
forward to Anke [Anni] and Jup 
[Josef]. Tomorrow at last we will 
see each other again after almost 
four years!"" For the next month 
the Alberses introduced Ann is 
parents to the major sites in 
Mexico: "June 23. We drive to the 
Tenayuca Pyramid. . . . Juppi and 
Pap again buy small heads of gods, 
which are still being discovered, 



168 




and rhey cost only a few cents."" 
After the Fleischmanns departed to 
return to Berlin via New York, 
Albers's mother wrote: "Farewells 
quite difficult. Who knows when 
we will see each other again. Juppis 
[Toni's nickname for Anni and 
Josef] were touching, so concerned 
about everything, and marvelous 
all the things the)' showed us.""' 

The following year Albers 
helped the Gropiuses and Herbert 
Bayer assemble material for 
the exhibition Bauhaus 1919-1928 
at the Museum of Modern Art 
in New York. Albers's weavings 
were included in the exhibition, 
and she contributed the essay 
"The Weaving Workshop" to the 
exhibition catalogue.' Another 
article, "Work with Material," 
was published in the leaflet "Black 
Mountain College, Bulletin 5" 
in November.'" 



1939 

Albers became a United States 
citizen on May 17, 1939, and 
Josef did likewise on December 12. 
In June they traveled to Mexico 
again for Josef to teach at Gobers 
College in Tlalpan. Albers's 
parents, forced to Hee Germany, 
set out for Mexico once more. 
Josef wrote to Bayer, "We plan to 
go to Mexico about June 3 to meet 
Anni's parents, who are moving 
there, unless a European explosion 
intervenes."'' Toni Fleischmann 
reported, "In 1937 I wrote a diary 
about our first trip to Mexico 
and I never imaiiined that 1 would 
see that country again. Now, 
two years later to the day, we begin 
the same journey on the same 
boat, the 'Orinoco, but under 
totally different circumstances. 
At that time it was a trip to see our 
children again and through them 
to see a distant and lovely country. 
Today it is a departure from our 
native land, which we must leave 
forever."" Albers wrote of the 



213. Aiini Albc-rs .uui lu-r p.nx'nis, 
Siegfried .wid loni Hleischm,)nn, 
Teotihu.ican, Mexico, 1937, photograjihcd 
b\' loset Albers. 



169 




214 and 215. Anni Albers at the loom and 
with a student, Black Mountain College, 
ca. 1937. 



trip to Mexico to meet her parents: 
Our trip was fine. . . . We have 
seen all ready [sic] quite a lot; one 
pyramid, one market, one fresco, 
and last night had our first party; 
with painters and Americans 
and all of it a little crazy. . . . 
Rivera who was supposed to come 
was not there, naturally. We expect 
my family sometime next iveek 
and plan to drive down to Vera 
Cruz [sic] to meet them!'' 



1940-49 

In the 1940s Albers began to 
make small-scale weavings, which 
she mounted on linen bases and 
framed. 

/ developed there [at Black 
Mountain College] gradually these 
what I call "pictorial weavings. " 
Which was really not what the 
Bauhaus was meant to do. . . . 
Gropius never quite forgave me that 
I went into the art side. . . . It tvas 
the one thing that gradually made 
me a little more known. . . . 
It ivas [a>i] inventive use of new 
materials and constructions that had 
not been used in many centuries. . . . 
[Josef] wasn't terribly interested in 
textiles. But he thought that it 
was nice that I did something.^' 

Her weavings were exhibited 
widely in the 1940s, and she 
was in demand as a teacher, a 
lecturer, and a writer during this 
time." In an article that drew caus- 
tic responses from traditional 
handweavers, Albers stated that 
handweaving should he seen 



170 





as more than 'a romantic attempt 
to recall a 'temps perdu ": 
If conceived as a preparatory step 
to machine production the work will 
be more than the revival of a lost 
skill and will take responsible part 
in a new development^ 

In the spring ok 1941 the 
Aiberses went to Harvard, where 
Josef taught at the Ciraduate 
School of Design. 

On May 5 of that year an 
exhibition of jewelry that Albers 
had made with a student, Alex 
Reed, from curtain rings, hairpins, 
paper clips, bottle caps, glass 
drawer knobs, clay insulators, metal 
washers, and other household items, 
opened at the Willard Ciallery in 
New York. The exhibition traveled 
to the Katherine Kuh Gallery, 
Chicago; the Addison Gallery of 
American Art, Andover, 
Massachusetts; the Fitchburg Art 
Center, Fitchburg, Massachusetts; 
and the Museum ot Art, Smith 
College, Northampton, 



Massachusetts. Many of the pieces 
were sold. One reviewer exclaimed: 
"Modern times have produced a 
number of new and sometimes 
strange things. But 'til now we'd 
never heard of utilizing electricians' 
supplies, bathroom fixtures, 
plumbers" accessories, and a hard- 
ware merchants stock to make — 
jewelry! 

"Maybe its another of those 
things brought on b\' conserving 
what we have. . . . And . . . it's 
proving 'smart.' ... It comes from 
the hands of Anni Albers, exponent 
of Art in the Black Mountain 
School [sic] of North Carolina . . . 
a fertile imagination seems to be the 
main requisite for its creation. . . . 

"One of the most interesting 
pieces . . . was a plaque formed by 
using a perforated sink strainer at 
the end of a shower curtain chain 
and hanging a fringe of paper 
clips from the lower edge of it!"" 

The jewelry was included 
in Modern Handmade Jewelry, an 
exhibition organized by the 



216 and 217. Anni Albers, ca. 1937, 
photographed by Josef Albers. 



171 



2i8. Installation view of 
Anni Albers Textiles, 
The Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, 1949. 




Museum of Modern Art in New 
York and shown there and at 
fifteen other museums across the 
country beginning in 1946. Albers 
wrote to the exhibitions organizer, 
Jane Sabersky, from New Mexico: 
Of course you can keep our necklaces 
for further exhibitions. Glad to 
learn it is a success. We found the 
perfect place to rent and quick, with 
marvelous food too. We will stay 
here until spring and then continue 
into Old Mexico.''" 

Around 1944 Philip Johnson 
commissioned drapery material 
from Albers for the Rockefeller 
guest house on East Fifty-second 
Street in New York. Albers chose 
the unusual combination of cotton 
chenille with white plastic and 
copper foil to create a curtain with 
a calm appearance during the day 
that transformed into a sparkling 
surface at night. 

The Alberses traveled less 
between 1940 and 1945, possibly 
because they could no longer go 
to Mexico after it allied itself with 



Germany in 1942. After the war, 
however, they returned to Mexico, 
taking an extended sabbatical 
from October 1946 to November 
1947 and traveling there via 
Canada, the Midwest, California, 
Texas, and New Mexico. In El Paso, 
Albers was hospitalized for several 
weeks and underwent surgery. 
She recuperated in La Luz, New 
Mexico, and celebrated her recovery 
in the pictorial weaving La Luz /. 

The Utopia of Black Mountain 
College began to falter, and Josef, 
who reluctantly agreed to be rector 
in October 1948, resigned from that 
position on March 14, 1949. At the 
end of the semester the Alberses left 
Black Mountain College for the last 
time and traveled to Mexico City, 
where Josef taught at the University 
of Mexico. In August they moved 
to New York. 

Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., director 
of the Department of Industrial 
Design at the Museum of Modern 



172 




Art in New York, had come to 
Black Mountain College in 1948 to 
lecture on design at the Summer 
Institute. And he saw some of my 
things. . . . And he said, "Wouldn't 
you like to show your things at the 
Museum of Modern Art?" . . . And 
it turned out the museum was ready 
to do that . . . and I was the only 
textile person they had ever shown.' 

Albers met with Philip 
Johnson at the museum to discuss 
the exhibition on January 14, 1949. 
Johnson recalls, "As far as I had an 
interest in textiles it was all her 
[Albers]. And I took Alfred [Alfred 
H. Barr, director of the Museum 
of Modern Art] seriously . . . that 
he wanted ... a total picture of 
the arts. I said, 'You cannot leave 
out textiles.' ... So I plugged the 
idea of doing a textile show." ""' 
The exhibition, Anni Alhers Textiles, 
which was held from September n 
to October 30, 1949, was the Hrst 
presentation of the work of a sin- 
gle textile artist to be shown at 
the museum. It included studies of 



textures, small expermiental textile 
samples, yard materials, pictorial 
weavings, and hanging screens. 
From 1950-53 the exhibition trav- 
eled to twent)'-six museums in the 
United States and Canada. 

/ was very happy with the way 
[Johnson] took on my exhibition. 
. . . [It] showed mainly also things 
that were at one time of great inter- 
est to me. And that was using mate- 
rials that usually were not used for 
textiles. I used synthetics and plastic 
materials. . . . And also I had the 
idea of making materials that are 
usually not existent, that is, partitions 
in rooms, rather transparent 
ones. . . . I made six or eight differ- 
ent transparencies.'" 

Of Albers's invoK'ement, 
Johnson remembers: "I felt she 
wasn't a person to do a lot of 
P. R. And shed always need help 
m that regard. 



219. Anni Albers, 1935, 
photographed by Josef Albers. 



173 





220 and 221. Anni Albcrs at her loom, 
1943- 



1950-59 

In 1950 Josef was appointed 
chairman of the Department of 
Design of Yale University and the 
Alberses moved to New Haven, 
Connecticut. At their home, at 
8 North Forest Circle, Albers 
played the role of housewife as 
well as artist for the first time. 
Responding to a commission 
from Gropius for his Harvard Law 
School building, she created 
bedspreads and partitions for the 
dormitories. 

One of the materials was done 
in quite a great quantity. It was a 
black and white one, with jute. . . . 
Gropius . . . had the idea that it 
should be very masculine. . . . They 
had to be heavy . . . and have this 
strong structure so that you didn't see 
immediately, "Oh, he didn't ivipe his 
feet, and here is a cigarette hole from 
Frank from last year still." . . . So 
I like to be on the practical side."' 

Charles Sawyer, Dean of the 
Yale School of Art at the time. 



observed in 1995: "It was ironic in 
a way that Harvard was giving her 
more recognition as a creative 
artist than Yale. ... In all candor, 
I don't think Josef was entirely 
sympathetic to her concerns. 
And I think he could have been." 

Albers continued her experi- 
ments with textiles for production, 
and worked with the manufacturer 
Knoll on the realization of her 
designs as yard materials. The 
majority of her pictorial weavings 
(twenty-four of the thirty-six 
known works) were made during 
this decade, and she taught at art 
schools across the United States. 

/ was often asked here, at Yale, to 
give a few seminars to the architec- 
tural students. And what intrigued 
me in regard to teaching was that I 
think something should be reversed 
in teaching. We always, in architec- 
ture, or ivhatever you do, you start 
from what there is today and try to 
explain it. While I was trying to set 



174 



m ." i 



ikjM- 





a task, put the students on absolute 
zero, in the desert, in Peru. Nothing 
is there. What is the first thing you 
have to think of? And build up? 
And maybe, for instance, something 
far fishing, or something for the 
roof. You gradually develop something, 
inventions, as you go along. . . . 
And some of the students . . . like 
also the idea of not being told a 
brick is done like this, and we build 
it like this, but how we arrive at 
the brick, you know?" 

During the 1950s, the AJberses 
returned several times to Latin 
America, traveling to Mexico and 
Cuba in 1952 and to Peru and 
Chile in 1953 and 1956. In 1954 
they traveled to Hawaii, where 
Josef taught at the University of 
Honolulu and Albers had an exhi- 
bition of her weavings at the 
Ht)n()lulu Academy ol Arts. 
Also in 1954 Albers accompanied 
Josef to Ulm, Germany, where he 
gave a course in design at the new 
Hochschule Kir Gestaltung. 



In January 1957 Albers's ark 
panels for Temple Emanu-El 
in Dallas, her Hrst svna"c)gue com- 
mission, were installed. 

"The Pliable Plane: Textiles 
in Architecture," a lengthy 
article by Albers based on her work 
designing textiles for industr)', 
appeared in Perspecta, a journal 
published by the Yale School of 
Architecture, in 1957.' 0>i 
Designing, a compilation of Albers's 
writings, was published by Pellango 
Press in New Haven in 1959. 

Also in 1959 the exhibition 
Anni Albers, Pictorial Weavings was 
presented by the Massachusetts 
Institute of Technolog)', Cambridge, 
Massachusetts, before it traveled 
to the Carnegie Institute of 
Technology, Pittsburgh; Baltimore 
Museum of Art; Yale University 
Art Ciallery, New Haven, 
Connecticut; and Contemporary 
Arts Museum, Houston. 



222. Josef and Anni Albers in 

Anni's workroom at 8 North Forest Circle, 
New Haven, Connccticiu. ca. 1955. 

223. Joset and Anni Albers, Monte Alb.in, 
Mexico, 1952. 



175 




224- Josef and Anni Albers at 8 North Forest 
Circle, New Haven, Connecticut, 1968, 
photographed by Henri Cartier-Bresson. 



1960-69 

In 1961 Albers received a second 
synagogue commission, for ark 
panels for Congregation B'nai 
Israel, Woonsocket, Rhode Island. 

A commission for a work that is 
to be part of a building devoted to 
ivorship is a most gratifying one. For, 
though any ivork we do is an attempt 
to relate ourselves to something 
meaningful in a general sense, it is 
a source of special satisfaction to be 
able to participate in a task directed 
toward something we hold in 
reverence!" 

That same year the American 
Institute of Architects recognized 
the significance of Albers's work 
within their profession and honored 
her with the AIAs Craftsmanship 
Medal. 

Although she would continue 
to work at her loom for a few 
more years, in 1963 Albers turned, 
almost by chance, to printmaking. 

My great breakaivay came when 
my husband . . . was asked to work 
at the Tamarind Littwgraphic 
Workshop in Los Angeles where I, as 



a useless wife, was hanging around, 
until June Wayne, head of the work- 
shop, asked me to try lithography 
myself I found that in this medium 
the image of threads could project 
a freedom I never suspected."' 

I began to think, after I made 
my first print, "Now, there is some- 
thing open, interesting to follow. " 
And I knew nothing of the technique. 
They supplied the technicians!' 

Albers was invited back to 
Tamarind as a fellow in 1964 and 
produced Line Involvements, a 
portfolio of seven lithographs. 

Once having discovered this 
new freedom, I was never able to let 
go. . . . I find that, when the work 
is made with threads, it's considered 
a craft; when it's on paper, it's 
considered art. . . . Prints gave me 
a greater freedom of presentation. 
The multiplication and exactness of 
the process of printmaking allow 
for broader exhibition and oiunership 
of work. As a result, recognition 
comes more easily and happily, the 
lotiged-for pat on the shoulder.''^ 



176 




Albers had been commissioned 
to write an entry on hand- 
weaving for a new edition of the 
Encyclopedia BritdHnicn pubHshcd 
in 1963, and this became the 
first chapter of 0>i Weaving, her 
treatise on "textile fundamentals 
and methods" published by 
Wesleyan University Press in 1965. 

The following year she 
completed Six Prayers, a commem- 
orative tapestry commissioned for 
the Jewish Museum in New York. 

/ used the threads themselves as 
a sculptor or painter uses his medi- 
um to produce a scriptural effect 
which would bring to mind sacred 
texts. . . . These paneb are mounted 
on rigid backgrounds to produce the 
effect of commemorative stelae. '" 



1970-94 

In 1970, when the Alberses 
moved to 808 Birchwood Drive in 
Orange, about ten miles from New 
Haven, Albers gave up weaving 
altogether in favor of printmaking. 
/ could not stand the idea aiiytnore 
of all the yarns and looms. It took too 
long and it always produced just one 
piece. . . . I just outgrew it in some 
way. It annoyed me and I can't do it 
anymore. . . . And then I gave away 
all the boms and all the yarns. '' 

An exhibition of Albers's 
work — her first major show in 
Europe — was shown at the 
Kunstmuseum in l^iisseldorf and 
at the Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin, 
in 1975. 

She continued her experi- 
ments in printmaking, working 
with Ken lyler (whom she knew 
from Tamarind) at Gemini 
G.E.L. in Los Angeles and later 
at Tyler Graphics in New York, 
and extending her techniques 
into screenprinting and etching. 

During these years, until 1994, 
she was honored with degrees and 



225. Josef Albers at 8 North Forest C'ircic, 
New Haven, Connecticur, 1968, 
photographed by Henri Cartier-Brcsson. 



177 




226. Maximillian Schell and Anni Albers, 
Yale University Art Gallery, 

New Haven, Connecticut, 1978. 

227. Anni Albers and her brotlier, 
Hans Farman, and sister, Lotte BenFey, 
on Albers's eighty-fifth birthday, 
Bethany, Connecticut, 1984. 



awards from numerous institutions, 
including honorary doctorates in 
fine arts from the Maryland 
histitute College of Art, Baltimore, 
in 1972; the Philadelphia College 
of Art in 1976; and the University 
of Hartford in 1979; and an 
honorary doctorate of law from 
York University, Toronto, in 1973. 

In March 1976, just after 
his eighty-eighth birthday, Josef 
died in New Haven, Connecticut, 
and Albers began to assume 
considerable responsibility as the 
primary guardian of his legacy. 

In 1977 the Brooklyn Museum 
presented Anni Albers: Prints 
and Drawings, a comprehensive 
exhibition of her works on paper. 

Albers designed a range of 
fabrics for Sunar, a textile 
company, in the 1980s, that has 
remained in production ever since. 

Despite her disavowal of femi- 
nism, the Women's C^aucus lor Art 
presented Albers with an award for 
outstanding achievement in 1980. 



In 1981, the textile artist Jack 
Lenor Larsen referred to Albers as 
a "visionary" as he presented her 
with the American Craft Council 
Gold Medal in New York. She 
responded: As to name calling, 
instead of visionary, I suggest 
experimenter. ' 

In 1982, at a meeting of the 
College Art Association in New 
York, she participated with Louise 
Nevelson, John Cage, and five 
others on a panel entitled "The 
Art/Craft Connection: Material as 
a Metaphor." During the panel, 
she stated: 

How do we choose our specific mate- 
rial, our means of communication? 
"Accidentally. " Something speaks 
to us, a sound, touch, hardness or 
softness, it catches us and asks us to 
be formed. We are finding our 
language, and as we go along we 
learn to obey their rules and their 



178 





limits. . . . Students worry about 
choosing their way. I always tell 
them, "You can go anywhere from 
anywhere. " ' 

Albers continued to travel, 
visiting Fairope several rimes 
during these years. In 1983 she 
presided over the opening oi the 
Josef Albers Museum in Bottrop, 
Germany, Josef's birthplace. 

Connections, a portfolio of 
nine screenprints, some based on 
her earlier designs from the 
Bauhaus, was published in Milan 
by Fausta Squatriti Edirore in 1984. 

A retrospective exhibition, 
The Woven and Graphic Art of 
Anni Albers, was presented 
at the Renwick Gallery of the 
National Museum of American 
Art, Smithsonian Institution, 
Washington, D.C., in 1985 and 
traveled to the Yale Universit)' 
Art Ciallery, New Haven, Con- 
necticut, in 1986. 

In December 1989, a selection 
of her textiles, pictorial weavings, 



drawings, and prims, together with 
a selection ol Josef's work, was 
exhibited in Josef and Anni Albers, 
organized by Albers's close frienci 
Maxiniillian Schell, at the \'illa 
Stuck in Munich and subsequently 
at the Josel Albers Museum. 

In 1990 Albers traveled to 
London to accept an honorary 
doctorate from the Royal College 
of Art. Also in 1990 she received 
an honorary doctorate from the 
Rhode Island School ot Design, 
Providence. 

Albers's work was again seen 
in the Museum of Modern Art in 
1990, this time alongside works 
by one of her former Bauhaus 
colleagues, in the exhibition Gunta 
Stolzl. Anni Albers. 

Anni Albers died in Orange, 
Connecticut, on Mav 9, 1994. 



liS. Anni AlbcTs, Mil.m, 1984. 

229. Anni AUkts ,11 ilic Roy.il (!ollcgc 
of Art graduation ceremony 
to accept an honorary doctorate, 
London, lune 29, 1990. 



179 



Notes 



1. Nicholas Fox Weber, "Anni Albers to 
Date," in The Woven and Graphic Art of 
Anni Albers (exh. cat.; Washington, D.C.: 
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985), p. 15. 

2. Conversation with Hans and Betty 
Farman, Bethany, Conn., June 8, 1998. 

3. Ibid. 

4. Reminiscences by Lotte Benfey, recorded 
by her grandson Phihp Benfey in the late 
1970s; transcript in The Josef and Anni 
Albers Foundation archives, Bethany, Conn. 

5. Maximillian Schell, interview with Anni 
Albers, Orange, Conn., Dec. 16, 1989; 
transcript in The Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation archives. 

6. Ibid. 

7. Nicholas Fox Weber, "Anni Albers to 
Date," p. 16. 

8. Savim Fesci, interview with Anni Albers, 
New Haven, Conn., July 5, 1968, Archives 
of American Art, New York; transcript 

in The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation 
archives. 

9. Walter Gropius, Programm des 
Staatlichen Bauhauses in Weimar (Weimar, 
April 1919), p. 4. 

10. Walter Gropius, letter to Annie Weil, 
Feb. 23, 1920, Weimar State Archives no. 
259, 48; quoted in Anja Baumhofif, "Gender, 
Art and Handicraft at the Bauhaus," Ph.D. 
diss., Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, 
1994, p. 82. 

11. Schell, interview with Albers, Dec. 16, 
1989. 

12. Sigrid Wortmann Weltge, interview 
with Anni Albers, Orange, Conn., 

Feb. 21, 1987; transcript in The Josef and 
Anni Albers Foundation archives. 

13. Ibid. 

14. Annelise Fleischmann, 
"Wohnokonomie," special Bauhaus supple- 
ment to Neue Frauenkleidung und 
Frauenkultur (Karlsruhe, 1924). Albers 's 
second published article, "Bauhausweberei," 
appeared in a special Bauhaus number of 
the journal /;/«^f Menschen 8 (Nov. 1924), 
p. 188. 

15. Nicholas Fox Weber, "Anni und Josef 
Albers: Gemeinsames Leben, gemeinsame 
Arbeit," in Josef Helfenstein and Henriette 
MemWi, Josef und Anni Albers, Etiropa und 
Amerika, Kiinstlerpaare — Kiinstlerfreunde 
(exh. cat.; Bern: Kunstmuseum Bern, 
1998), p. 31. 

16. Anni Albers, "Design: Anonymous and 
Timeless" (1947), in On Designing 
(Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan Universit)' 
Press, 1971), p. 2. 

17. Ofjietj {i<)z6). Tapis et Tissus, Art 
International dAujotird'hui \^ (1926), plates 
17 and 19. 

18. Anni Albers, "Weaving at the Bauhaus" 
(Sept. 1938, revised July 1959), in On 



p. 2. 

19. Sigrid Wortmann Weltge, Bauhaus 
Textiles (London: Thames and Hudson, 
1993). PP- 98-99- 

20. Anni Albers, "The Pliable Plane: 
Textiles in Architecture," Perspecta 4 (1957), 
pp. 36-41; reprinted in On Designing, p. 19. 

21. Marcel Franciscono, "Paul KJee in the 
Bauhaus: The Artist as Lawgiver," Arts 
Magazine ^x (Sept. 1977), pp. 122-27. 

22. Weltge, interview with Albers, 
Feb. 21, 1987. 

23. Fesci, interview with Albers, 
July 5, 1968. 

24. Schell, interview with Albers, 
Dec. 16, 1989. 

25. Reminiscences by Lotte Benfey, 
late 1970s. 

26. Fesci, interview with Albers, 
July 5, 1968. 

27. Weltge, interview with Albers, 
Feb. 21, 1987. 

28. Weber, "Anni Albers to Date," p. 20. 

29. Schell, interview with Albers, 
Dec. 16, 1989. 

30. Nicholas Fox Weber and Pandora 
Tabatabai Asbaghi, interview with Philip 
Johnson, New Canaan, Conn., 

July 26, 1998. 

31. Josef Albers, letter to Vasily Kandinsky, 
Dec. 12, 1933, in Kandinsky-Albers: 

Une Correspondence des annees trente 
(Paris: Centre Pompidou, 1998), p. 17. 

32. "Art Professor, Fleeing Nazis, Here to 
Teach," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov. 26, 
1933, p. 8A. 

33. "One of Germany's Foremost Textile 
Designers Comes Here to Teach in 
Southern Mountain School," New York 
Sun, Dec. 4, 1933, p. 34. 

34. Frederick A. Horowitz, interview with 
Barbara (Bobbie) Dreier, June 14, 1996; 
transcript in The Josef and Anni Albers 
Foundation archives. 

35. Schell, interview with Albers, 
Dec. 16, 1989. 

36. Richard Polsky, interview with Anni 
Albers, Orange, Conn., Jan. 11, 1985, 
"American Craftspeople Project," Oral 
Research Office, Columbia University, 
New York; transcript in The Josef and 
Anni Albers Foundation archives, p. 35. 

37. Mary Jane Jacob, "Anni Albers: A 
Modern Weaver as Artist," in The Woven 
and Graphic Art of Anni Albers 
(Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian 
Institution Press, 1985), p. 67. 

38. Mary Emma Harris, The Arts at Black 
Mountain College (Cambridge, Mass.: 
MIT Press, 1987), p. 24. 

39. Copies of this letter are in The Josef 
and Anni Albers Foundation archives. 



180 



40. Nicholas Fox Webcr, telephone con- 
versation with Bobbie Dreier, July 29. 1998. 

41. Nicholas Fox Weber, preface, in Karl 
Taube, The Josef and Anui Albers Collection 
of Pre-Columbian Art (New York: Hudson 
Hills Press, 1988), p. 9- 

42. Anni Albers, letter to Vasily and Nina 
Kandinsky, Aug. 22, 1936, in Kaiulimky- 
Alhers: Une Correspondance des annees 
trente, p. 77. 

43. Anni Albers, Pre-Columbian Mexican 
Miniatures: The Josef and Anni Albers 
Collection (New York: Praeger, 1970), 
unpaginated. 

44. Toni Ullstein Fleischmann, travel 
diary, June 17, 1937; English transcript, 
translated by Fleischmann's grandson 
Theodor Bentcy, in The Josef and Anni 
Albers Foundation archives. 

45. Ibid. 

46. Ibid., July 16, 1937. 

47. Anni Albers, "The Weaving Workshop," 
in Walter Gropius, Ise Gropius, and 
Herbert Bayer, Bauhaus 1919-1928 (exh. 
cat.; New York: Museum of Modern Art, 
1938, 1952), pp. 141-42; revised in July 1959 
and reprinted as "Weaving at the 
Bauhaus," in On Designing, pp. 38-40. 

48. Reprinted in Colkge Art Journal ), 
no. 2 (Jan. 1944), pp. $1-54; and in On 
Designing, pp. 50-53. 

49. Josef Albers, letter to Herbert Bayer, 
May 12, 1939; Black Mountain College 
Papers, North Carolina State Archives, 
Raleigh. 

50. Toni Ullstein Fleischmann, "Thrown 
Off the Track" (1939), unpublished account 
of the Fleischmanns emigration from 
Germany to the United States; English 
transcript, translated by Fleischmann's 
grandson Theodor Bcnfcy, in The Josef and 
Anni Albers Foundation archives. 

51. Anni Albers, letter to Anne Mangold, 
June 15, 1939; Black Mountain C'ollege 
Papers, North Carolina State Archives, 
Raleigh. 

52. Schell, interview with Albers, 
Dec. 16, 1989. 

53. Albers's publications in the 1940s were: 
"Designing," Craft Horizons 2, no. 2 
(May 5, 1943), pp. 7-9; "We Need the 
Crafts for Their Contact with Materials," 
Design 46, no. 4 (Dec. 12, 1944), pp. 21-22 
(reprinted as "One Aspect of Art Work," 

in On Designing, pp. 30-33); "Constructing 
Textiles," Design 47, no. 8 (April 4, 1946) 
(reprinted in Alvin Lustig, cd., Visual 
Communication [New York, 1945], and in 
On Designing, pp. 12-16); "Design: 
Anonymous and Timeless," The Magazine 
of Art ^o. no. 2 (Feb. 1947), pp. 51-53 
(reprinted in On Designing, pp. 1-9); 
"Fabrics," Art and Architecture b} (March 
1948), p. 33; and "Weavings," Art and 
Architecture (>6 (Feb. 1949). p. 14. 



54. Anni Albers, "Handweaving loday — 
Textile Work at BLick Mountain C'ollege," 
The Weaverb. no. 1 (Jan. -Feb. 1941). 

pp. 1-4. In response to this article, Mary 
M. Arwater, the originator of a popular 
home-weaving course, scoffed: "The 
making of models for industry — I flincy 
industry would consider this a big joke!" 
"It's Pretty — But Is It Art?" The Wearer 6, 
no. 3 (July-Aug. 1941), p. 13. 

55. Dorothy Randall, "Hardware, Plumbing 
Gadgets Make Jewelry," The Pittsburgh 
Sun-Telegraph. Nov. 18, 1941. 

56. Anni Albers, letter to Jane Sabersky, 
La Luz, New Mexico, Jan. 20, 1947; The 
Josef and Anni Albers Foundation archives. 

57. Polsky, interviesv with Albers, Jan. 11, 
1985, p. 28. 

58. Report of meeting between Johnson 
and Albers, Jan. 14, 1949, exhibition files. 
Department of Architecture and Design, 
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. 

59. Weber and Asbaghi, interview with 
Johnson, July 26, 1998. 

60. Polsky, interview with Albers, Jan. 11, 
1985; " The Reminiscences of Anni Albers," 
p. 29. 

61. Weber and Asbaghi, interview with 
Johnson, July 26, 1998. 

62. Polsky, interview with Albers, Jan. 11, 
1985; "The Reminiscences ot Anni Albers," 
pp. 31-32. 

63. Ibid., pp. 17-18. 

64. "The Pliable Plane: Textiles in 
Architecture," Perspecta 4 (1957), pp. 36-41. 

65. Anni Albers, unpublished typewritten 
statement, June 1962; The Josef and Anni 
Albers Foundation archives. 

66. Gene Baro, interview with Anni 
Albers, in Anni Albers (exh. cat.; New York: 
Brooklyn Museum, 1977), p. 7. 

67. Polsky, interview with Albers, Jan. 11, 
1985; "The Reminiscences of Anni .Mbers," 
p. 21. 

68. Ibid. 

69. Preface, On Wearing (Middletown, 
Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1965), 
p. 15. 

70. Statement by Anni Albers in an 
undated press release issued by the Jewish 
Museum, New York; copy in The Josef 
and Anni Albers Foundation archives. 

71. Schell, interview with Albers, 
Dec. 16, 1989. 

72. Anni Albers, letter to Jack Lenor 
Larsen, July 23, 1981; The Josef and Anni 
Albers Foundation archives. 

73. Transcript in The Josef and Anni 
Albers Foundation archives. 



181 



The Solomon R. Guggenheim 
Foundation 

Honorary Trustees in Perpetuity 
Solomon R. Guggenheim 
Justin K. Thannhauser 
Peggy Guggenheim 

Honorary Chairman 
Peter Lawson-Johnston 

Chairman 
Peter B. Lewis 

President 

Ronald O. Pereiman 

Vice-Presidents 
Wendy L-J. McNeil 
John S. Wadsworth, Jr. 

Vice-President and Treasurer 
Stephen C. Swid 

Director 
Thomas Krens 

Secretary 
Edward F. Rover 

Honorary Trustee 
Claude Pompidou 

Trustees Ex Officio 
Dakis Joannou 
Luigi Moscheri 

Director Emeritus 
Thomas M. Messer 



Trustees 

Giovanni Agnelli 
Jon Imanol Azua 
Peter M. Brant 
Mary Sharp Cronson 
Elizabeth T. Dingman 
Gail May Engelberg 
Daniel Filipacchi 
Barbara Jonas 
David H. Koch 
Thomas Krens 
Barbara Lane 
Peter Lawson-Johnston 
Samuel J. LeFrak 
Peter B. Lewis 
Peter Littmann 
Wendy L-J. McNeil 
Edward H. Meyer 
Ronald O. Pereiman 
Frederick W. Reid 
Richard A. Rifkind 
Denise Saul 
Terry Semel 
James B. Sherwood 
Raja W Sidawi 
Seymour Slive 
Stephen C. Swid 
John S. Wadsworth, Jr. 
Cornel West 
Michael F. Wettach 
John Wilmerding 
William T. Ylvisaker 



Photo credits (by figure number): 4, 
21-23, 29. 39' 41-46, 49. 50, 53. 54- 56-58, 
64-67, 132-47, 153-57. 161, 174. 175: Tim 
Nighswander; 5, 6: Die Neue Sammlung, 
Munich; 7, 38: Michael Nedzweski, 
©President and Fellows of Harvard 
College, Harvard University, Cambridge, 
Mass.; 8, 9, 11-20, 40, 70-72, 83, 86-94, 
107-18, 120-23, I25' '-7' '59' '60, 
180, 202: ©1999 The Museum of Modern 
Art, New York; 10: David Mathews, 
©President and Fellows of Harvard 
College, Harvard University, Cambridge, 
Mass.; 24, 25, 191: Bauhaus-Archiv 
GmbH, Berlin; 26, 30: ©ARS, New York; 
27: Thomas Lunt, Department ot Library 
Services, American Museum of Natural 
History, New York; 28: R.E. Logan, 



Department of Library Services, American 
Museum of Natural History, New York; 
52, 68, 69, 73-82, 84, 85, 95-106, 119, 124, 
126, 128-32, 158: ©1998 The Metropolitan 
Museum of Art, New York; 59: Lee 
Stalsworth; 60: John Parnell, ©The Jewish 
Museum, New York; 61-63: Ellen 
Labenski; 150, 164, 168: John Hill; 162, 
163: Blackink Architectural Photography, 
Dallas; 165, 223: Getulio Alviani; 171: 
Katherine Newbegin; 172, 201: Wide World 
Photos Inc.; 181: Faith Haacke; 189, 198: 
Research Library, Getty Research Institute, 
Los Angeles. Front cover: ©1998 The 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 
Back cover: ©1947 Nancy Newhall. The 
Beaumont and Nancy Newhall estate. 
Courtesy of Scheinbaum and Russek Ltd. 



I'^ggy Guggenheim Collection 
Family committee 

David Helion 

Fabrice Helion'*' 

Nicolas Helion 

Laurence and S.indro Riimncy 

Clovis Vail 

Julia Vail and BriiLC Mnuland 

Karolc P. B. Vail 

Mark Vail 



^^ggy Guggenheim Collection 
Advisory Board 

President 

Peter Lawson-Jtjhn.stun 

Vice-President 

The Earl Castle Siewarl 

Hoiioniry C.hiiinnun 
Claude Poiiijiidou 

Honorary Vice-Chairman 
H. R. H. The Grand Duchess of 
Luxembourg 

Honorary Member 
Olga Adamishina 

Members 

Luigi Agrati 

Steven Ames 

Giuseppina Araldi CluiiKiti 

Maria Angeles AriMraiii 

Rosa Ayer 

Marchese Annlbalc Bcrlingieri 

Alexander Bernstein 

Patti Cadby Birch 

Mary Bloch 

Wilfred Cass 

The Earl Castle Stewart 

Claudio Cavazza 

Fausto Cereti 

Sir Trevor Chinn 

Franca Coin 

Elizabeth T. Dingman 

Christine Ehrmann 

Isabella del Frate Eich 

Rosemary Chisholni Feick 

Mary Gaggia 

David Gallagher 

Danielle Gardner 

Patricia Gerber 

Marino Golinelli 



Christian Haberniann 
Jacques Hachuel M. 
Gilbert W. Harrison 
W. Lawrence Heisey 
William M. Hollis, Jr. 
Evelyn Lambert 
Jacques E. Lennon 
Samuel H. Lindenbaum 
Jime Lowell 
Cristiano Mantero 
Achille Maramotti 
Valeria Monti 
Luigi Moscheri 
Raymond D. Nasher 
Christina Newburgh 
Giovanni Pandini 
Annelise Ratii 
Benjamin B. Rauch 
Richard A. Rifkind 
Nanette Ross 
Miles Rubin 
Aldo Sacchi 
Gheri Sacklcr 
Sir Timothy Sainsbur;- 
Denise Saul 
Evelina Schapira 
Hannclore B. Schulhof 
James B. Shenvood 
Riki Taylor 

Roberto Tronchetti Provera 
Melissa Ulfane 
Leopoldo Villarcal F. 
Jean Wagener 
Nancy Pierce Watts 
Ruth Westen Pavese 

Emeritus Members 
Enrico Chiari 
William Feick, Jr. 
Umberto Nordio 
Anna Scotti 
Kristen Venable 



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Distributed by Harry N. Abrams 
^^ loo Fifth Avenue 

^^ New York, New York loou 

Jacket design by Nathan Garland 




ISBN 0-8109-6923-8 

90000 



9 780810"969230